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Notes - by Van Hien Study Group
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by Van Hien Study Group

1. Sundry good/ bad actions : In t he Meditation Sutra, good actions are divided into pure and sundry actions. Sundry good actions are those that require effort and are carried out with an expectation of benefit, merits or virtues. Pure actions are those which are performed in order to transcend Birth and Death, namely, meditation, visualization or Buddha Recitation. Sundry bad actions are actions influenced by impure thoughts. (Master Suddhisukha) Sundry thoughts : deluded, impure thoughts.

2. Parable: In a time long past. Maitreya was in his incarnation as a laughing, big- bellied monk with a sack perpetua ly on his back. He used to travel about the countryside seeking alms and sharing them with whom-ever happened to be nearby. He would customarily sit under a tree, surrounded by young children, to whom he would tell stories to illustrate Buddhist teachings. Seeing this, an elder monk of the time became annoyed at what he perceived as untoward conduct on the part of Maitreya. One day, he cornered Maitreya and tried to test him with the fo lowing question: “Old monk, pray tell me, just what do you think is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings?” Maitreya stopped for a moment, looked him in the eye, and just let his sack fall to the ground. As the puzzled monk wondered what to make of this singular action, Maitreya bent down, picked up his sack and walked away. Dropping the sack, “letting go”, forgive and forget – that is the teaching of M a i tr e ya. t he Buddha o f t he future.

3. See the fo lowing verse found in the Avatamsaka Sutra, Ch. 20. It expresses one of the key teachings of Mahayana Buddhism:

“If people want to rea ly know/ All Buddhas of all time, / They should contemplate the nature of the cosmos:/ All is but mental construction (i. e., Everything is made from M ind alone.)” (T. Cleary, tr., The Flower Ornament Sutra/ Avatamsaka Sutra,

Vol I, p. 452)

Borrowing and repaying:

In Buddhism, everything is governed by the law of Cause and Effect. Life is an unending cycle of transgression and retribution, borrowing and repaying.

4. Not to kill, steal, engage in sexual misconduct or false speech are the four cardinal precepts or injunctions taught by the Buddhas. Not only must you not break any of these precepts through words, you must also refrain from all other unwholesome speech. (Master Suddhisukha)

5. Brahma Net Sutra: This is a sutra of major significance in Mahayana Buddhism. In addition to containing ten major Mahayana precepts, the sutra also contains forty- eight less important injunctions. These 58 major and minor precepts constitute the Bodhisattva Precepts, taken by most Mahayana monks and nuns and certain advanced lay practitioners. It is believed that the current version of the Brahma Net Sutra is only a fraction of the original sutra, most of the rest having been lost. An Englis h version of this sutra is available from the Sutra Translation Committee (Bronx, NY) and the Buddha Educational Foundation (Taiwan).

6. Pure karma of the body: to refrain from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Moreover, all actions and gestures should be upright, undefiled, unsoiled by worldly dusts. (Master Suddhisukha)

7. This is because Diamond Recitation, while silent, still involves moving the lips.

8. The expression “Self-Nature Amitabha. Mind-Only Pure Land” represents the quintessence of Pure Land/Buddha Recitation Practice. At the noumenon level (i. e., at the lev el of principle), Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life, is our Self-Nature, always bright and everlasting – thus the expression Self-Nature Amitabha. Rebirth in the Pure Land is rebirth in our mind, which is intrinsica ly pure, like the Pure Land – thus the expression Mind-Only Pure Land.

9. Three Bodies of the Buddha: ” A concept adopted in Mahayana to organize different concepts of the Buddha appearing in the sutras.” (A Dictionary of

Buddhist Terms and Concepts, p. 448)

“The three bodies are:

1. Dharmakaya: t he Dharma-body, or the ‘ body of reality’, which is formless, unchanging, transcendental, and inconceivable. Synonymous with suchness, or emptiness.

2. Sambhogakaya: t he ‘body of enjoyment’. ‘ t he bliss or reward body’, the celestial body of the Buddha. Personification of eternal perfection in its ultimate sense. It ‘resides in the Pure Land and never manifests itself in the mundane world, but only in the celestial spheres, accompanied by enlightened Bodhisattvas. ’

3. Nirmanakaya: t he ‘manifested or incarnated body’ of the Buddha. In order to benefit certain sentient beings, a Buddha incarnates himself into an appropriate visible body, such as that of Sakyamuni Buddha…” (G. C. C. Chang).,

10. Third lifetime: a general Buddhist Teaching which can be summarized as fo lows: In the first lifetime, the practitioner engages in mundane good deeds which bring ephemeral worldly blessings (wealth, power, authority, etc.) in the second lifetime. Since power tends to corrupt, he is then likely to create evil karma, resulting in retribution in the third lifetime.

Thus good deeds in the first lifetime are potential‘enemies’ of the third lifetime. To ensure that mundane good deeds do not become‘enemies, ’ the practitioner should dedicate all merits to a transcendental goal, i. e., to become Bodhisattvas or Buddhas or, in Pure Land teachings to achieve rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land – a Buddha-land beyond Birth and Death.

In the mundane context, these three lifetimes can be conceived of as three generations. Thus, the patriarch of a prominent family, through work and luck, amasses great power, fortune and influence (first lifetime). His children are then able to enjoy a leisurely, and, too often, dissipated life (second lifetime). By the generation of the grandchildren, the family’s fortune and good reputation have all but disappeared (third lifetime).

11. For example, a practitioner may have a telephone next to him while he is reciting the Buddha’s name. The phone rings and he answers it, while continuing to strike the wooden fish! This indicates a lack of earnestness.

12. The Questions of King Milinda Sutra contains the fo lowing parable: “A minute grain of sand, dropped on the surface of the water, will sink immediately. On the other hand, a block of stone, however large and heavy, can easily be moved from place to place by boat.

The same is true of the Pure Land practitioner. However light his karma may be, if he is not rescued by Amitabha Buddha, he must revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death. With the help of Amitabha Buddha, his karma, however heavy, will not prevent his rebirth in the Pure Land.”

13. This teaching is reflected in t he Brahma Net Sutra (note 5):

“Now, if you wish to save a certain being but it ’s beyond your capacity, then you should single-mindedly recite the Buddha’s name. For example, you may see some pigs or sheep that are about to be slaughtered, and you can’t liberate them because you aren’t able to buy them all. At this time you should singlemindedly recite the Buddha’s name so those creatures can hear it. You can speak Dharma also. You can say to them, ‘All of you living beings should bring forth the Bodhi resolve [Bodhi Mind].’ This is creating causes and conditions for rescuing their wisdom-light. Although you are not saving their physical bodies, you are rescuing their wisdom- light.” (Master Hui Seng)

14. According to Buddhist cosmology, our earth is suspended in space as a result of the unceasing movement of cosmic winds. This section illustrates the basic teaching of Pure Land and all other Mahayana schools: the purpose of cultivation is to rescue all sentient beings, including the practitioner himself (Bodhi Mind).

See in this connection, Brahma Net Sutra, Secondary Precepts 20 and 45.

15. This seemingly exaggerated statement is easily understood in the light of the Buddha’s teachings. Injustices, like all karma, good and bad, have their source in the mind. One utterance of the Buddha’s name while in samadhi can change that m ind and therefore eliminate, or at least mitigate, all the wrongs from time immemorial.

To take a simple example from everyday life, suppose a person driving home from work were cut off and almost hit by another vehicle. Incensed, he might chase after the other car and at a stop light, start to give the driver a piece of his mind. However, should he discover that the driver’s wife was badly injured and about to undergo an operation, would his anger not change into understanding and forgiveness? See also main text, section 44.

16. See note 1.

17. As soon as we produce t he “present” utterance. that utterance is already a thing of the past! Nothing remains still.

18. Koan: “Literally, Koan means a public case… However, it now refers to the statements, including answers, made by Zen masters. These statements are used as subjects for meditation by novices in Zen monasteries. Koan are also used as a test of whether the disciple has rea ly [achieved an Awakening]. Helped by koan study, students of Zen may open their minds to the truth. By this method they may attain the same inner experience as the Zen masters. It is said that there are one thousand seven hundred such koans on record. The term wato [hua-t’ou or topic] is also used in this sense.” (Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary)

“A word or phrase of nonsensical language which cannot be ‘solved’ by the intellect but which holds a person’s attention while a higher faculty takes over. Used as an exercise for breaking the limitations of thought and developing intuition, thereby allowing one to attain a flash of awareness beyond duality (Kensho.), and later Satori.” (Christmas Humphrey, A Popular Dictionary of Buddhism)

19. “ Horizontal ” and “ vertical ” are figures of speech, which can readily be understood through the fo lowing example. Suppose we have a worm, born inside a stalk of a bamboo. To escape, it can take the hard way and crawl vertically all the way to the top of the stalk. Alternatively, it can poke a hole near its current location and escape horizontally into the big, wide world. The horizontal escape, for sentient beings, is to seek rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha.

20. Near-death karma: According to Buddhist teachings, at the time of death people are assailed by all kinds of afflictions, such as love, hate, regret, which they have been unable to let go of during their lifetimes. See also Notes 25 and 26.

21. The levels of re birth in the Western Pure Land as described in the Meditation Sutra. a key Pure Land text. According to this sutra, there are nine grades, divided into three sets of three grades each. The moremerits and virtues the practitioner accumulates, the higher the grade. These grades are in fact representative of an infinite number of levels corresponding to the infinite levels of karma of those reborn in the Pure Land.

22. Four Great Vows : These are the common vows of all Mahayana practitioners, be they lay or monastic, which are recited at the end of each Meditation/ Recitation session. The Four Great Vows, which represent the Bodhi Mind. are: “Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them a l. / Afflictions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them a l. / Schools and traditions are manifold, I vow to study them a l. / The

Buddha-way is supreme; I vow to complete it.” (Ross, p. 48) Belittling Mashasthama and praising Avalokitesvara: the teachings of the Buddha are audience-specific. Thus, to some, Avalokitesvara’s teaching on the faculty of hearing is supreme, while to others, Mahasthama-prapta ’s on Buddha Recitation is the highes t. This is why the Buddha praises all sutras as supreme and many sutras are ca led “king of the sutras” – “king ” for its target audience.

23. Wonderful Enlightenment: the stage of cultivation immediately preceding Perfect Enlightenment, or Buddhahood. Polar Mountain : The mythological mountain at the center of the universe.

24. All of these texts. along with others on Pure Land, have been translated into English. See the list of publications of the Sutra Translation Committee at the front of this book or contact the Buddha Education Foundation in Tai wan (overseas@ budaedu. org. tw).

25. Supportive recitation: recitation performed by one or more Pure Land practitioners alongside a dying person, to assist him in achieving rebirth in the Pure Land. This is important for Pure Land practitioners as at the time of death, one is like a turtle being skinned alive. Filled with pain and fear, without the support of like- minded practitioners, one is likely to forget about Buddha Recitation and Pure Land rebirth. See also Note 20.

26. This is comparable to driving west from New York to Los Angeles, and then in a split second, taking the wrong fork on the highway, winding up south at the Mexican border. To make the right decision at the fork requires study of the relevant maps (previous cultivation). Alternatively, the driver can put his trust in a guide who knows the way (a good spiritual advisor). The crucial point here is to have the right advisor at the right moment. In this scenario, one second late is too late.

27. Bodhi M ind: Skt/Bodhicitta. The spirit of Enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two para lel aspects; i) the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii) the aspiration to rescue all beings. The ultimate goal of all Mahayana practice is to achieve Enlightenment and transcend the cycle of Birth and Death – that is, to attain Buddhahood. In the Mahayana tradition, the precondition for Buddhahood is the Bodhi M ind (bodhicitta), the aspiration to achieve full and complete Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings,oneself included.

28. This is a crucial teaching of Pure Land Buddhism. As Vasabandhu, the Patriarch of the Mind-Only School wrote in his well-known Treatise on Rebirth:

“To develop the Bodhi M ind is precisely to seek Buddhahood; to seek Buddhahood is to develop the m ind of rescuing sentient beings; and the m ind of rescuing sentient beings is none other than the m ind that gathers in all beings and helps them to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.” (Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism. 2nd ed., p. 64)

Appendices : The Bodhi Mind

by Dharma Master Thich Thien Tam

(excerpted from Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith Horizontal Escape)

Essay on the Bodhi Mind

1) Meaning of the Bodhi Mind (Bodhicitta)

Exchanging the virtues of Buddha Recitation for the petty merits and blessings of this world is certainly not consonant with the intentions of the Buddhas. There-fore, practitioners should recite the name of Amitabha Buddha for the purpose of escaping the cycle of Birth and Death. However, if we were to practice Buddha Recitation for the sake of our own salvation alone, we would only fulfill a sma l part of the Buddhas’ intentions.

What, then, is the ultimate intention of the Buddhas? The ultimate intention of the Buddhas is for all sentient beings to escape the cycle of Birth and Death and to become enlightened, as they are. Thus, those who recite Amitabha Buddha’s name should develop the Bodhi M ind (aspiration for Supreme Enlightenment).

The word “Bodhi” means “enlightened.” There are three main stages of Enlightenment: the Enlightenment of the Sravakas (Hearers); the Enlightenment of the Pratyeka (Self-Awakened) Buddhas; the Enlightenment of the Buddhas. What Pure Land practitioners who develop the Bodhi M ind are seeking is precisely the Enlightenment of the Buddhas. This stage of Buddhahood is the highest, transcending those of the Sravakas and Pratyeka Buddhas, and is therefore ca led Supreme Enlightenment or Supreme Bodhi. This Supreme Bodhi M ind contains two principal seeds, Compassion and Wisdom, from which emanates the great undertaking of rescuing oneself and all other sentient beings.

To reiterate, the Bodhi M ind I am referring to here is the supreme, perfect Bodhi M ind of the Buddhas, not the Bodhi M ind of the Sravakas or Pratyeka Buddhas.


The Mahavairocana (Dai Nichi) Sutra says: The Bodhi M ind is the cause

Great Compassion is the root (foundation) Skillful means are the ultimate.

For example, if a person is to travel far, he should first determine the goal of the trip,

then understand its purpose, and lastly, choose such expedient means of locomotion as automobiles, ships, or planes to set out on his journey. It is the same for the cultivator. He should first take Supreme Enlightenment (Buddhahood) as his ultimate goal, and the compassionate m ind which benefits himself and others as the purpose of his cultivation, and then, depending on his preferences and capacities, choose a method, Zen, Pure Land or Esotericism, as an expedient for practice. Expedients, or skillful means, refer, in a broader sense, to flexible wisdom adapted to circumstances – the application of all actions and practices, whether favorable or unfavorable, to the practice of the Bodhisattva Way. For this reason, the Bodhi M ind is the goal that the cultivator should clearly understand before he sets out to practice.

Thus, while the previous chapter dealt with the importance of the Pure Land method and its immediate purpose of escaping Birth and Death, this chapter goes into the Supreme Bodhi M ind (Buddhahood) as the ultimate goal of the cultivator.

When Buddha Sakyamuni preached the Four Noble Truths, we might expect that he would have explained the “cause” of suffering first. Instead, He began with the Truth of Suffering, precisely because he wanted to expose sentient beings to the concept

of universal suffering. Upon realizing this truth, they would become concerned and look for the cause and source of suffering. Likewise, this author, fo lowing the intent of the Great Sage, first brought up the Pure Land method of escaping Birth and Death as a most urgent matter, and will proceed next to discuss the Bodhi Mind.

The Avatamsaka states:

To neglect the Bodhi Mind when practicing good deeds is the action of demons. This teaching is very true indeed. For example, if someone begins walking without knowing the destination or goal of his journey, isn ’t his trip bound to be circuitous, tiring and useless? It is the same for the cultivator. If he expends a great deal of effort but for-gets the goal of attaining Buddhahood to benefit himself and others, all his efforts will merely bring merits in the human and celestial realms. In the end he will still be deluded and revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death, undergoing immense suffering. If this is not the action of demons, what, then, is it? For this reason, developing the supreme Bodhi M ind to benefit oneself and others should be recognized as a crucial step.

2) The Bodhi Mind and the Pure Land Method

The Dharma, adapting to the times and the capacities of the people, consists of two traditions, the Northern and the Southern. The Southern tradition (Theravada) emphasizes everyday practical realities and swift self-emancipation, leading to the fruits of the Arhats or Pratyeka Buddhas. The Northern tradition (Mahayana, or Great Vehicle) teaches all-encompassing truths and stresses the goal of liberating all sentient beings, leading to the complete Enlightenment of the Tathagatas. Pure Land is a Mahayana teaching and therefore is not only directed toward the goal of self- enlightenment, but stresses the enlightenment of others at the same time.

When Buddhism spread to China [around the first century A. D.], it evolved, through the teachings of the Patriarchs, into ten schools. Among them are two schools which belong to the Southern (Theravada) tradition, the Satysiddhi School and the Abhidharma School. However, the faculties and temperament of the Chinese people did not correspond to the Southern tradition, and, therefore, within a short period of time it faded away. The other eight schools, are all Mahayana: the T’ien T’ai (Tendai) School, the Avatamsaka School, the Madyamika (Three Treatises) School, the Mind- Only (Yogacara) School, the Vinaya (Discipline) School, the Zen School, the Esoteric School and the Pure Land School. The vehicle for popularizing the Pure Land School is the Buddha Recitation method.

Pure Land being a Mahayana teaching, if the practitioner, in addition, develops the Supreme Bodhi Mind, m ind and method will be perfect. This leads to Buddhahood, which encompasses both “self-benefit” and “other benefit.” If he recites the Buddha’s name seeking rebirth in the celestial or human realms, Buddha Recitation becomes a celestial or human method. A practitioner who develops such a m ind will receive only the blessings of the celestial or human realms. When such blessings are exhausted, he will sink into a lower realm. If the practitioner is interested first and foremost in self-enlightenment, he will receive only the less exalted, incomplete fruits of the Sravakas and Pratyeka Buddhas.

Therefore, when reciting the Buddha’s name, we should develop the supreme Bodhi Mind. There is a saying, “if you are off by a thousandth of an inch, you are off by a thousand miles.” This being the case, Pure Land practitioners should pay particular attention to developing a proper Bodhi Mind.

The Practices of the Bodhi Mind

3) How to Develop the Bodhi Mind

Awakening the Bodhi Mind, as indicated earlier, can be summarized in the four Bodhisattva vows:

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all; Afflictions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them all; Dharma doors are boundless, I vow to master them all; Buddhahood is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it.

However, it is not enough simply to say “I have developed the Bodhi Mind,” or to recite the above verses every day. To rea ly develop the Bodhi Mind, the practitioner should, in his cultivation, meditate on and act in accordance with the essence of the vows. There are cultivators, clergy and lay people alike, who, each day, after reciting the sutras and the Buddha’s name, kneel down to read the transference verses: “I wish to rid myself of the three obstructions and sever afflictions…” However, their actual behavior is different: today they are greedy, tomorrow they become angry

and bear grudges, the day after tomorrow it is delusion and laziness, the day after that it is belittling, criticizing and slandering others. The next day they are involved in arguments and disputes, leading to sadness and resentment on both sides. Under these circumstances, how can they rid themselves of the three obstructions and sever afflictions?

In general, most of us merely engage in external forms of cultivation, while paying lip service to “opening the mind.” Thus, the fires of greed, anger and delusion continue to flare up, preventing us from tasting the pure and cool flavor of emancipation as taught by the Buddhas. Therefore, we have to pose the question, “How can we awaken the Bodhi Mind?”

In order to develop a true Bodhi Mind, we should ponder and meditate on the fo lowing six critical points:

Point 1: the Enlightened Mind

Sentient beings are used to grasping at this body as “me,” at this discriminating mind-consciousness which is subject to sadness and anger, love and happiness, as “me.” However, this flesh-and-blood body is illusory; tomorrow, when it dies, it will return to dust. Therefore, this body – a composite of the four elements (earth, water, fire and air) – is not “me.” The same is true of our mind-consciousness, which is merely the synthesis of our perception of the six “Dusts” (form, sound, fragrance, taste, touch and dharmas).

Take the case of a person who formerly could not read or write, but is now studying English or German. When his studies are completed, he will have knowledge of English or German. Another example is a person who had not known Paris but who later on had the opportunity to visit France and absorb the sights and sounds of that city. Upon his return, if someone were to mention Paris, the sights of that metropolis would appear clearly in his mind. That knowledge formerly did not exist; when the sights and sounds entered his subconscious, they “existed.” If these memories were not rekindled from time to time, they would gradua ly fade away and disappear, returning to the void.

This knowledge of ours, sometimes existing, sometimes not existing, some images disappearing, other images arising, always changing fo lowing the outside world, is illusory, not real. Therefore, the mind-consciousness is not “me.” The ancients have said:

The body is lik e a bubble, the m ind is like the wind; they are illusions, without origin or True Nature.

If we truly realize that body and mind are illusory, and do not cling to them, we will gradually enter the realm of “no self” – escaping the mark of self. The self of our self being thus void, the self of “others” is also void, and therefore, there is no mark of others. Our self and the selves of others being void, the selves of countless sentient beings are also void, and therefore, there is no mark of sentient beings. The self being void, there is no lasting ego; there is rea ly no one who has “attained Enlightenment.” This is also true of Nirvana, ever-dwelling, everlasting. Therefore, there is no mark of lifespan.

Here we should clearly understand: it is not that the eternally dwelling “True Thusness” has no real nature or true self; it is because the sages have no attachment to that nature that it becomes void.

Sentient beings being void, objects (dharmas) are also void, because objects always change, are born and die away, with no self-nature. We should clearly realize that this is not because objects, upon disintegration, become void and non-existent; but, rather, because, being illusory, their True Nature is empty and void. Sentient beings, too, are like that. Therefore, the ancients have said:

Why wait until the flowers fall t o understand that form is emptiness?

The practitioner, having clearly understood that beings and dharmas are empty, can proceed to recite the Buddha’s name with a pure, clear and bright mind, free from all attachments. Only when he cultivates in such an enlightened frame of m ind can he be said to have “developed the Bodhi Mind. ”

Point 2: the Mind of Equanimity

In the sutras, Buddha Sakyamuni stated:

All sentient beings possess the Buddha Nature; they are our fathers and mothers of the past and the Buddhas of the future.

The Buddhas view sentient beings as Buddhas and therefore attempt, with equanimity and great com-passion, to rescue them. Sentient beings view Buddhas as sentient beings, engendering afflictions, discrimination, hatred and scorn. The faculty of vision is the same; the difference lies in whether we are enlightened or not. As disciples of the Buddhas, we should fo low their teachings and develop a m ind of equanimity and respect towards sentient beings; they are the Buddhas of the future and are all endowed with the same Buddha Nature. When we cultivate with a mind

of equanimity and respect, we rid ourselves of the afflictions of discrimination and scorn, and engender virtues. To cultivate with such a mind is called “developing the Bodhi Mind.”

Point 3: The Mind of Compassion

We ourselves and all sentient beings already possess the virtues, embellishments

and wisdom of the Buddhas. However, because we are deluded as to our True Nature and commit evil deeds, we revolve in Birth and Death, to our immense suffering. Once we have understood this, we should rid ourselves of the m ind of love-attachment, hate and discrimination, and develop the m ind of repentance and compassion. We should seek expedient means to save ourselves and others, so that all are peaceful, happy and free of suffering. Let us be clear that compassion is different from love-attachment, that is, the mind of affection, attached to forms, which binds us with the ties of passion. Compassion is the m ind of benevolence, rescuing and liberating, detached from forms, without discrimination or attachment. This m ind manifests itself in every respect, with the result that we are peaceful, happy and liberated, and possess increased merit and wisdom.

If we wish to expand the compassionate mind, we should, taking our own suffering as a starting point, sympathize with the even more unbearable misery of others. A benevolent mind, eager to rescue and liberate, naturally develops; the compassionate thought of the Bodhi M ind arises from there. For instance, in a situation of war and famine, the young, who should be cared for by their parents, grow up orphans, helpless and forsaken. Likewise, the old, idea ly, are supported by their children. However, their children having been killed prematurely, they are left to grieve and suffer alone. Witnessing these examples, our hearts are moved and we wish to come to their rescue. The compassionate thought of the Bodhi Mind, which up to that time had not developed, will spontaneously arise.

Other examples: there are young men, endowed with intelligence and full of health, with a bright future, who are suddenly cut down by bullets and bombs. There are also young women in their prime who suddenly lose the parents and family members upon whom they depend for support and therefore go astray, or they become orphans, their future livelihood and survival under a dark cloud. Witnessing these occurrences, our hearts are deeply moved and we wish to come to their rescue. The compassionate thought of the Bodhi Mind, which up to that time had not developed, will spontaneously arise.

There are people who are sick but cannot afford the high cost of treatment and must therefore suffer needlessly for months or years, to the point where some even commit suicide. There are the poor and unemployed, whose wives and children are undernourished and sick, their clothing in rags; they wander aimlessly, pursued by creditors, enduring hunger and cold, day in and day out. They can neither live decently nor die in peace. There are people who face difficult mental problems, without family or friends to turn to for advice and solace. There are those who are deluded and create bad karma, not knowing that in the future they will suffer retribution, unaware of the Dharma and thus ignorant of the way to emancipation. Witnessing these occurrences, our hearts are deeply moved and we wish to come to their rescue. The compassionate thought of the Bodhi Mind, which up to that time had not developed, will spontaneously arise.

In broader terms, as the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra taught in the Avatamsaka Sutra:

Great [Bodhisattvas develop] great compassion by ten kinds of observations of sentient beings: they see sentient beings have nothing to rely on for support; they see sentient beings are unruly; they see sentient beings lack virtues; they see sentient beings are asleep in ignorance; they see sentient beings do bad things; they see sentient beings are bound by desires; they see sentient beings drowning in the sea of Birth and Death; they see sentient beings chronically suffer from illness; they see sentient beings have no desire for goodness; they see sentient beings have lost the way to enlightenment. [Bodhisattvas] always observe sentient beings with these awarenesses. (Thomas Cleary, tr. The Flower Ornament Scripture [ Avatamsaka Sutra]. Vol. II. p. 343.)

Having developed the great compassionate mind, we should naturally develop the great Bodhi M ind and vow to rescue and liberate. Thus the great compassionate m ind and the great Bodhi Mind interpenetrate freely. That is why to develop the compassionate m ind is to develop the Bodhi Mind. Only when we cultivate with such great compassion can we be said to have “developed the Bodhi Mind. ”

Point 4: The Mind of Joy

Having a benevolent mind, we should express it through a m ind of joy. This mind is of two kinds: a rejoicing m ind and a m ind of “forgive and forget.” A rejoicing m ind means that we are glad to witness meritorious and virtuous acts, however insignificant, performed by any-one, from the Buddhas and saints to all the various sentient beings. Also, whenever we see anyone receiv-ing gain or merit, or prosperous, successful and at peace, we are happy as well, and rejoice with them.

A “forgive and forget” m ind means that even if sentient beings commit nefarious deeds, show ingratitude, hold us in contempt and denigrate us, are wicked, causing harm to others or to ourselves, we calmly forbear, gladly forgiving and forgetting their transgressions.

This m ind of joy and forbearance, if one dwells deeply on it, does not rea ly exist, because there is in truth no mark of self, no mark of others, no mark of annoyance or harm. As stated in the Diamond Sutra:

The Tathagata teaches likewise that the Perfection of Patience is not the Perfection of Patience; such is merely a name. (A. F. Price, tr., “The Diamond Sutra,” p. 44. In The Diamond Sutra & The Sutra of Hui Neng.)

The rejoicing m ind can destroy the affliction of mean jealousy. The “forgive and forget” m ind can put an end to hatred, resentment, and revenge. Because the m ind of joy cannot manifest itself in the absence of Enlightenment, it is that very Bodhi Mind. Only when we practice with such a mind, can we be said to have “developed the Bodhi Mind. ”

Point 5: The Mind of Repentance and Vows

In the endless cycle of Birth and Death, all sentient beings are at one time or another related to one another. However, because of delusion and attachment to self, we have, for countless eons, harmed other sentient beings and created an immense amount of ev il karma.

The Buddhas and the sages appear in this world out of compassion, to teach and liberate sentient beings, of whom we are a part. Even so, we engender a m ind of ingratitude and destructiveness toward the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). Now that we know this, we should feel remorse and repent the three ev il karmas. Even the Bodhisattva Maitreya, who has attained non-retrogression, still practices repentance six times a day, in order to achieve Buddhahood swiftly. We should use our bodies to pay respect to the Triple Jewel, our mouths to confess our transgressions and seek expiation, and our minds to repent sincerely and undertake not to repeat them. Once we have repented, we should put a complete stop to our ev il m ind and conduct, to the point where mind and objects are empty. Only then will there be true repentance… We should also vow to foster the Triple Jewel, rescue and liberate all sentient beings, atone for our past transgressions, and repay the “four great debts,” which are the debt to the Triple Jewel, the debt to our parents and teachers, the debt to our spiritual friends, and finally, the debt we owe to all sentient beings.

Through this repentant mind, our past transgressions will disappear, our virtues will increase with time, leading us to the stage of perfect merit and wisdom. Only when we practice with such a repentant m ind can we be said to have “developed the Bodhi Mind.”

Point 6: The Mind of no Retreat

Although a practitioner may have repented his past transgressions and vowed to cultivate, his habitual delusions and obstructions are not easy to eliminate, nor is the accumulation of merits and virtues through cultivation of the six paramitas and ten thousand conducts necessarily easy to achieve. Moreover, the path of perfect Enlightenment and Buddhahood is long and arduous, full of hardship and obstructions over the course of untold eons. It is not the work of one or two life spans. For example, the Elder Sariputra [one of the main disciples of Buddha Sakyamuni] had reached the sixth “abode” of Bodhisattvahood in one of his previous incarnations and had developed the Bodhi Mind practicing the Paramita of Charity. However, when an externalist (non-Buddhist) asked him for one of his eyes and then, instead of using it, spat on it and crushed it with his foot, even Sariputra became angry and retreated from the Mahayana mind.

We can see, therefore, that holding fast to our vows is not an easy thing! For this reason, if the practitioner wishes to keep his Bodhi Mind from retrogressing, he should be strong and firm in his vows. He should vow thus: “Although this body of mine may endure immense suffering and hardship, be beaten to death or even reduced to ashes, I sha l not, in consequence, commit wicked deeds or retrogress in

my cultivation. ” Practicing with such a non-retrogressing m ind is ca led “developing the Bodhi Mind. ”


The six cardinal points summarized above are sine qua non for those who aspire to develop the Bodhi Mind. Those who do not earnestly practice on this basis will never attain Buddhahood. There are only two roads before us: revolving in Birth and Death, or liberation. Although the way to liberation is full of difficulties and hardships, each step leads gradually to the place of light, freedom, peace and happiness. The way of Birth and Death, while temporarily leading to blessings in the celestial and human realms, ultimately ends in the three Ev il Paths, subjecting us to untold suffering, with no end in sight.

Therefore, fe low cultivators, you should develop a m ind of strong perseverance, marching forward toward the bright path of great Bodhi. The scene of ten thousand flowers vying to bloom in the sky of liberation will be there to greet you!

4) Teachings on the Bodhi Mind

The sutras have expounded at length on the Bodhi Mind, as exemplified in the fo lowing excerpts from the Avatamsaka Sutra:

In such people arises the [Bodhi Mind] – the mind of great compassion, for the salvation of all beings; the m ind of great kindness, for unity with all beings; the m ind of happiness, to stop the mass misery of all beings; the altruistic mind, to repulse all that is not good; the mind of mercy, to protect from all fears; the unobstructed mind, to get rid of all obstacles; the broad mind, to pervade all universes; the infinite mind, to pervade all spaces; the undefiled mind, to manifest the vision of all buddhas; the purified mind, to penetrate all knowledge of past, present, and future; the m ind of knowledge, to remove all obstructive knowledge and enter the ocean of a l-knowing knowledge. (Thomas Cleary, tr., The Flower Ornament Scripture [ Avatamsaka Sutra], Vol. III, p. 59.)

Just as someone in water is in no danger from fire, the [Bodhisattva] who is soaked in the virtue of the aspiration for enlightenment [Bodhi Mind] is in no danger from the fire of knowledge of individual liberation… Just as a diamond, even if cracked, relieves poverty, in the same way the diamond of the [Bodhi Mind], even if split, relieves the poverty of the mundane whirl.

Just as a person who takes the elix ir of life lives for a long time and does not grow weak, the [Bodhisattva] who uses the elix ir of the [Bodhi Mind] goes around in the mundane whirl for countless eons without becoming exhausted and without being stained by the ills of the mundane whirl. (Ibid., p. 362, 364.)


We can see that in the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas explained the virtues of the Bodhi Mind at length. The above are merely a few major excerpts. The sutras also state:

The principal door to the Way is development of the Bodhi Mind. The principal criterion of practice is the making of vows.

If we do not develop the broad and lofty Bodhi M ind and do not make firm and strong vows, we will remain as we are now, in the wasteland of Birth and Death for countless eons to come. Even if we were to cultivate during that period, we would find it difficult to per-severe and would only waste our efforts. Therefore, we should realize that in fo lowing Buddhism, we should definitely develop the Bodhi M ind without delay.

That is why Elder Zen Master Hsing An wrote the essay, “Developing the Bodhi Mind” to encourage the Fourfold Assembly. In it, the Master described eight approaches to developing the Bodhi Mind, depending on sentient beings’ vows: “erroneous/correct, true/false, great/sma l, imperfect/perfect.” What fo lows is a summary of his main points.

1) Some individuals cultivate without meditating on the Self-Nature. They just chase after externals or seek fame and profit, clinging to the fortunate circumstances of the present time, or they seek the fruits of future merits and blessings. Such development of the Bodhi M ind is ca led “erroneous.”

2) Not seeking fame, profit, happiness, merit or blessings, but seeking only Buddhahood, to escape Birth and Death for the benefit of oneself and others – such development of the Bodhi M ind is ca led “correct.”

3) Aiming with each thought to seek Buddhahood “above” and save sentient beings “below,” without fearing the long, arduous Bodhi path or being discouraged by sentient beings who are difficult to save, with a m ind as firm as the resolve to ascend a mountain to its peak – such development of the Bodhi M ind is caled “true.”

4) Not repenting or renouncing our transgressions, appearing pure on the outside while remaining filthy on the inside, formerly full of vigor but now lazy and lax, having good intentions intermingled with the desire for fame and profit, practicing good deeds tainted by defilements – such development of the Bodhi M ind is ca led “false.”

5) Only when the realm of sentient beings has ceased to exist, would one’s vows come to an end; only when Buddhahood has been realized, would one’s vows be achieved. Such development of the Bodhi M ind is ca led “great.”

6) Viewing the Triple World as a prison and Birth and Death as enemies, hoping only for swift self-salvation and being reluctant to help others – such development of the Bodhi M ind is ca led “smal. ”

7) Viewing sentient beings and Buddhahood as outside the Self-Nature while vowing to save sentient beings and achieve Buddhahood; engaging in cultivation while the m ind is always discriminating – such development of the Bodhi M ind is ca led “imperfect” (biased).

8) Knowing that sentient beings and Buddhahood are the Self-Nature while vowing to save sentient beings and achieve Buddhahood; cultivating virtues without seeing oneself cultivating, saving sentient beings with-out seeing anyone being saved – such development of the Bodhi Mind is ca led “perfect.”

Among the eight ways described above, we should not fo low the “erroneous,” “false,” “imperfect,” or “sma l” ways. We should instead fo lo w the “true,” “correct,” “perfect,” and “great” ways. Such cultivation is caled developing the Bodhi Mind in a proper way.

In his commentary, Zen Master Hsing An also advised the Great Assembly to remember ten causes and conditions whe n developing the Bodhi Mind. These are: our debt to the Buddhas, our parents, teachers, benefactors and other sentient beings; concern about the sufferings of Birth and Death; respect for our Self-Nature; repentance and elimination of evil karma; upholding the correct Dharma; and seeking rebirth in the Pure Land.

On the subject of rebirth, he stated, quoting the Amitabha Sutra:

You cannot hope to be reborn in the Pure Land with little merit and virtue and few causes and conditions or good roots.

Therefore, you should have numerous merits and virtues as well as good roots to qualify for rebirth in the Pure Land. However, there is no better way to plant numerous good roots than to develop the Bodhi Mind, while the best way to achieve numerous merits and virtues is to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha. A moment of singleminded recitation surpasses years of practicing charity; truly developing the Bodhi M ind surpasses eons of cultivation. Holding firmly to these two causes and conditions assures rebirth in the Pure Land.

Through these teachings of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Patriarchs, we can see that the Bodhi M ind is essential for the practice of the Way.

Key Conditions with respect to the Bodhi Mind

5) The Path of Birth and Death is Full of Danger

There are many gates to the garden of Enlightenment. As long as the practitioner takes the great Bodhi M ind as his correct starting point, whatever Dharma door he chooses, in accordance with his capacities and preferences, will bring results.

If we consider “capacity,” Pure Land embraces persons of all levels. Not only ordinary people but also Bodhisattvas (Manjusri, Samantabhadra) and Patriarchs (Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna) have all vowed to be reborn in the Pure Land. If we take “timing” into consideration, we should realize that in this Dharma-Ending Age when sentient beings in general have scattered minds and heavy obstructions, Buddha

Recitation is easy to practice and can help the practitioner achieve rebirth in the Pure Land in just one lifetime. However, if we discuss “individual preferences,” the Pure Land method alone cannot satisfy everyone; hence the need for many schools and methods.

In general, cultivators endowed with a sharp mind, seeking a direct, simple and clear approach, prefer Zen. Those who are attracted to supernatural power, the mystical and the mysterious prefer the Esoteric School. Those who like reasoning and require a clear, genuine analysis of everything before they can believe and act, prefer the Mind-Only School… Each school has further subdivisions, so that adherents of the same school may have differing practices.


The cultivator who has developed the Bodhi Mind, vowing to save himself and others, may fo low any of the schools mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, in this Dharma-

Ending Age, he should, at the same time, practice Buddha Recitation seeking rebirth in the Pure Land – thus ensuring success without retrogression. Why is this so? There are three cardinal points:

In the wasteland of Birth and Death, there are many dangers and obstacles to cultivation. In order to escape the dangerous cycle of Birth and Death and ensure that there is no retreat or loss of the Bodhi Mind, we should seek rebirth in the Pure Land. This is the first cardinal point the practitioner should keep in mind.

The ancients often reminded us:

If we cultivate without striving for liberation, then our cultivation in this life is in fact an enemy during our third rebirth.

This is because in the first lifetime, we endure suffering and bitterness in our practice and therefore, in the next life we enjoy wealth, intelligence and authority. In this second lifetime, it is easy to be deluded by power and wealth, “charming spouses

and cute children,” and other such worldly pleasures. Having tasted lust and passion,

it is easy to become attached, and the deeper the attachments, the closer we are to the dark place of perdition, as we resort to numerous ev il deeds to strengthen our power, authority and ambitions. Having generated such causes in our second lifetime, how can we fail to descend upon the three Ev il Paths in our third lifetime?


Some would ask: “If we have expended efforts to cultivate and sow good seeds in our previous life, how can we lose all our good roots and wisdom in the second lifetime, to the point of descending upon the Ev il Paths in the third lifetime?”

Answer : Although good roots exist, the bad karma accumulated for eons past is not necessarily wiped out. Furthermore, on this earth, good actions are as difficult to perform as climbing a high tree, while bad deeds are as easy to commit as sliding down a slope. As the sages of old have said:

The good deeds performed all of one’s life are still not enough; the bad deeds performed in just one day are already too many.

For example, people in positions of power and authority whom we meet today have all, to a greater or lesser extent, practiced charity and cultivated blessings an, d good karma in their previous lives. However, few among them now lean toward the path of virtue, while those who are mired in fame and profit constitute the majority. Let

us ask ourselves, how many persons of high academic achievement, power and fame would agree to leave the secular life, opting for a frugal, austere existence directed toward the goal of lofty and pure liberation? Monks and nuns, too, may patiently cultivate when they have not yet reached high positions. However, with power and fame, and many disciples bowing to and serving them, even they may become easy prey to the trappings of the vain world. Nowadays, how many individuals, clergy or laymen, who were practicing vigorously in the past, have gradually grown lax and lazy, abandoning cultivation or leaving the Order entirely, retreating from the Way – why even mention the next lifetime?


If such is the case in the human realm, how much more difficult it is to cultivate in the celestial realms, where the Five Pleasures are so much more subtle!

We have been talking about those who enjoy blessings. Those lacking in blessings and leading a life of deprivation , also find it difficult to cultivate. Even if they are middle class, in this life full of heterodox ways, they may find it difficult to meet true Dharma teachers or to discover the path to liberation. Let us not even mention those treading the three Ev il Paths, where cultivation is tens of thousands times more difficult, because they are deluded and suffering both in m ind and body.

The cycle of Birth and Death is filled with such dangers and calamities. Thus, if we do not seek rebirth in the Pure Land, it is difficult to ensure non-retrogression of the Bodhi Mind.

6) The Need to Seek Liberation in this Very Life

In this Dharma-Ending Age, if we practice other methods without fo lowing Pure Land at the same time, it is difficult to attain emancipation in this very lifetime. If emancipation is not achieved in this lifetime, deluded as we are on the path of Birth and Death, all of our crucial vows will become empty thoughts. This is the second cardinal point which the cultivator should keep in mind.

Those practitioners who fo lo w other schools, stressing only self-help and a firm, never-changing mind, believe that we should just pursue our cultivation life after life. Even if we do not achieve emancipation in this life, we sha l certainly do so in a future lifetime. However, there is one thing we should consider: Do we have any firm assurances that in the next lifetime, we will continue cultivating? For, if we have not yet attained Enlightenment, we are bound to be deluded upon rebirth, easily forgetting the vow to cultivate which we made in our previous lifetimes. Moreover, in this world, conditions favoring progress in the Way are few, while the opportunities for retrogression are many. How many monks and nuns have failed to pursue their cultivation upon re-birth, as in the examples summarized in the first chapter?

The sutras state:

Even Bodhisattvas are deluded in the bardo stage, Even Sravakas are deluded at birth.

Bardo is the intermediate stage between death and rebirth… In the interval between the end of this current life and the beginning of the next life, even Bodhisattvas are subject to delusion, if they have not yet attained [a high degree of] Enlightenment.

Another passage in the sutras states:

Common mortals are confused and deluded when they enter the womb, reside in the womb, and exit from the womb. Celestial kings, thanks to their merits, are awake upon entering the womb, but are confused and deluded when residing in or exiting from the womb. Sravakas are awake when they enter and reside in the womb; however, they are confused and deluded when they exit from the womb. Only those Bodhisattvas who have attained the Tolerance of Non-Birth are always awake – entering, residing in, and exiting from the womb.


In a few instances, ordinary people, because of special karmic conditions, are able to remember their previous lives, but these are very rare occurrences. Or else, they could be Bodhisattvas who took human form in order to demonstrate the existence of transmigration to sentient beings. Otherwise, all sentient beings are deluded when they pass from one life to another. When they are in such a state, all their knowledge of the Dharma and their great vows from previous lives are hidden by delusion and often forgotten.

This author reca ls the story of a Dharma colleague. In his youth, each time he happened to be dreaming, he would see himself floating freely, high up in the air, traveling everywhere. As he grew older, he could only float lower and lower, until he could no longer float at all. In the commentary Guide to Buddhism. there is the story of a layman who, at the age of four or five, could see everything by night as clearly as in the daytime. As the years went by, this faculty diminished. From the age of ten onward, he could no longer see in the dark, except that from time to time, if he happened to wake up in the middle of the night, he might see clearly for a few seconds. After his seventeenth birthday, he could experience this special faculty only once every two or three years; however, his special sight would be merely a flash before dying out. Such persons had cultivated in their previous lives. However, when they were reborn on this earth they became deluded, and then, as their attachments grew deeper, their special faculties diminished.

There are similar cases of persons who can see every-thing clearly for a few dozen miles around them. Others can see things underground, through walls, or in people’s pockets. However, if they do not pursue cultivation, their special faculties diminish with time and, in the end, they become just lik e everyone else. Some persons, having read a book once, can close it and recite every line without a single mistake. Others have a special gift for poetry, so that whatever they say or write turns poetic. However, if they do not pursue cultivation, they sometimes end by rejecting the Dharma.

An eminent Master once commented that such persons had practiced meditation in their previous lives to a rather high level and reached a certain degree of attainment. However, fo lowing the Zen tradition, they sought only immediate awakening to the True Nature, severing attachment to the concepts of Buddha and Dharma (i. e., letting the m ind be empty, recognizing no Buddha and no Dharma). Therefore, those who failed to attain Enlightenment were bound to undergo rebirth in the Triple Realm, whereupon, relying on their mundane intelligence, they sometimes became critical of Buddhism. Even true cultivators in the past were thus; how would today’s practitioners fare compared to them?


As Buddha Sakyamuni predicted, “In the Dharma-Ending Age, cultivators are numerous, but those who can achieve Supreme Enlightenment are few.” And, not having achieved it, even with bad karma as light as a fine silk thread, they are subject to Birth and Death. Although there may be a few cultivators who have awakened to the Way, being awakened is different from attaining Supreme Enlightenment. During rebirth, they are bound to be deluded and unfree. In subsequent lifetimes, there may be few conditions for progress and many opportunities for retrogression, making it difficult to preserve the vow of liberation intact.

Concerning the retrogression of practitioners who have merely experienced Awakening, the ancients have provided three analogies:

1) When we crush prairie grass with a stone block, though the grass cannot grow, its roots are not yet rotten or destroyed. If conditions arise that cause the stone to be overturned, the grass will continue to grow as before.

2) When we pour water into a jar, though the impurities are deposited at the very bottom, they are not yet filtered out. If conditions change and the water is stirred up, the impurities will rise.

3) Take the case of clay which is molded into earthen-ware but not yet fired in a kiln. If it should rain, the earthenware would certainly disintegrate.

The strong probability that those who have merely experienced an Awakening will retrogress during trans-migration is similar to the above examples.

Furthermore, in the Dharma-Ending Age, how many cultivators can claim to be awakened to the Way? Awakening to the Way is not easy. There was once a Zen Master who practiced with all his might for forty years before he succeeded. Another Great Master sat for so long that he wore out more than a dozen meditation cushions before he saw his Original Nature. As far as today’s Zen practitioners are concerned (with the exception of a few saints who have taken human form to teach sentient beings), the majority only manage to achieve a temporary calming of the mind and body; at most they may witness a few auspicious realms! Even if they have awakened to the Way, they can still encounter dangerous obstacles during transmigration, as previous-ly described. The path of Birth and Death, filled with fearful dangers for those who have not attained Enlightenment, is the same. Therefore, to claim that we should not fear Birth and Death is a superficial point of view.

Furthermore, over the centuries, the Dharma has met with difficulties in some parts of the world. Wherever materialism has spread, Buddhism has come under criticism. There are places where temples and pagodas have been destroyed, sutras and commentaries burned, monks and nuns forcibly returned to lay life, and common citizens barred from practicing their faith. Even if Buddhism is revived later on, it will have under-gone changes and possibly lost some of its vitality… For this reason, we should fo low the Pure Land School, to ensure non-retrogression of the Bodhi Mind. Even if we fo lo w other schools we should, at the same time, practice Buddha Recitation seeking rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

This is the common exhortation of such eminent sages as Masters Lien Ch’ih, Ou I, Chien M i and Yin Kuang.

7) How to Perfect the Bodhi Mind

Having developed the Bodhi M ind and considering our own capacities and circumstances, what expedients should we adopt to perfect that Mind? If we want both the self-centered and the altruistic aspects of the Bodhi Vow to be complete, there is no better way than to seek rebirth in the Pure Land. This is the third cardinal point that the practitioner should keep in mind.

A high-ranking monk of old, having expressed his determination to cultivate, penned the fo lowing verses:

I have pondered this world, and the world beyond, Whose name would one recite, if not Amitabha’s?

Truthfully, after reading these verses, pondering, and comparing Dharma methods, people’s capacities and the current environment, this author is convinced that Pure Land is the safest and most complete path.


Some may say that having awakened the Bodhi Mind, we should remain in the Saha World, because in this world there are many sentient beings in need of help. Why seek rebirth in the Pure Land?

Let me reverse the question: What are the conditions that would a low us to save sentient beings? They are, of course, merit, virtue, wisdom, eloquence, spiritual power and auspicious features and bearing. (Do we have these qualities to any degree?) Particularly, severing afflictions and delusions and developing wisdom, so that we are not led astray by mundane things, is no easy matter! The ancients have said, “Severing Delusions of Views is as difficult as preventing water from running down a mountain forty miles high.” If it is so difficult to rid ourselves of Delusions of Views, how much more difficult it is to sever Delusions of Thought, Delusions of “Dust and Sand,” and ignorance.

Delusions of Views, simply put, are the afflictions connected with seeing and grasping at the coarse level. Delusions of Thought are afflictions at the subtle level. For countless eons, the infectious filth of greed, anger and delusion, as well as countless other erroneous views, have been instilled in our mind-consciousness. Can we really manage, in the short span of this life, to do away with them all? Today’s cultivators, in general, have few blessings and sha low wisdom. Just reciting the words “Amitabha Buddha” in an accomplished manner is difficult enough. Why even mention such distant goals as saving sentient beings at will?

For this reason, the immediate necessity is to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land, first rescuing our-selves from the cycle of Birth and Death and then relying upon the auspicious environment of that Land to practice vigorously. We should wait until we have achieved Enlightenment and developed wisdom, eloquence, spiritual powers

and auspicious features before returning to the Saha World to rescue sentient beings. Only then will we have some freedom of action.

Nevertheless, considering the responsibility and the compassionate m ind of the cultivator, we should not completely reject all attempts to save sentient beings in our current life. In truth, however, our present altruistic attempts can only be within the framework of “according to one’s means and conditions.” This is not unlike the case of someone who, having fallen into the river of delusion, tries his best to reach the shore, all the while shouting to others, exhorting them to do likewise.


To speak more broadly, even if we have attained the stage of Non-Birth and must reside in the evil worlds in order to perfect the “paramitas,” in reality we cannot be away from the various pure lands. Why is this so? As stated in the sutras, even Bodhisattvas of the First Stage cannot know the “comings and goings ” of Bodhisattvas of the Second Stage, much less the realms of the Buddhas! For this reason, in the Avatamsaka Sutra [one of the most grandiose texts of the Mahayana canon], after preaching the Ten Great Vows, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra

immediately admonished the Bodhisattvas at all fifty-two levels (i. e., all Bodhisattvas)

to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land. This is because Amitabha Buddha is always teaching in that Land, and Bodhisattvas wishing to enter the lofty, esoteric realm of the Tathagatas should remain close to and study with Him.

Thus, even the highest level Bodhisattvas should spiritually divide themselves – on the one hand remaining in the various defiled worlds to accumulate good deeds and on the other, being present in the various pure lands to be close to and cultivate with the Buddhas. Rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is, there-fore, important for sentient beings – from the lowest beings to the highest level Bodhisattvas.

As seen above, there are many obstacles along the path of Birth and Death. If we have not reached the stage of Non-Birth, it is easy to become deluded during trans- migration and descend into ev il realms. For this reason, to ensure non-retrogression of the Great Bodhi M ind and fulfillment of the Bodhi Vow, common mortals such as ourselves – who urgently need to resolve the issue of Birth and Death existing before our very eyes – should seek rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. Even the highest Bodhisattvas cannot remain away from the Pure Land, if they wish to enter the lofty, esoteric realms of the Tathagatas and fulfill the Great Bodhi Vow.

Introduction to Pure Land Buddhism

by Dr. J. C. Cleary

Buddhism has evolved many, many forms during its long history. Codes of conduct, guidelines for communal life, rituals, meditative practices, modes of teaching, images, fables and philosophies have varied greatly over time and place. According to the fundamental Buddhist principle of skill-in-means, this multiformity is natural and proper, a necessary response to the great variety of circumstances in which Buddhism has been propagated.

Skill-in-means requires that the presentation of the Buddhist Teaching, (sometimes simply called “the Dharma”), be adapted to the mentality and circum-stances of the people being taught. According to Buddhist seers, the absolute truth is inconceivable and cannot be captured in any particular formulation. Therefore in Buddhism there is no fixed dogma, only provisional, partial expressions of the teaching, suited to the capabilities of the audience being addressed.

In keeping with this fundamental principle, a tolerant, nonsectarian approach has norma ly prevailed through-out Buddhist history. Where dogmatic controversies and sectarian partisanship have cropped up in the communities of Buddhist fo lowers, these are distortions of the teaching, and have always been based on misunderstanding and misinformation…


Pure Land Buddhism is a religion of faith, of faith in Amitabha Buddha [and in one’s capacity to achieve Buddhahood]. Amitabha Buddha presides over the Pure Land, a “paradise” in the west, the Land of Ultimate Bliss, named “Peaceful Nurturing.” In the Pure Land, there is none of the suffering and defilement and delusion that norma ly blocks people’s efforts toward enlightenment here in our world (which the Buddhists named “Endurance.”)

The immediate goal of Pure Land believers is to be re-born in Amitabha’s Pure Land. There, in more favorable surroundings, in the presence of Amitabha, they will eventually attain complete enlightenment.

The essence of Pure Land practice thus consists of invoking the name of Amitabha Buddha, contemplating the qualities of Amitabha, visualizing Amitabha, and taking vows to be born in the Pure Land.


Making a vow to attain birth in the Pure Land signifies a fundamental reorientation of the believer’s motivations and will. No longer is the purpose of life brute survival, or fulfillment of a social role, or the struggle to wrest some satisfaction from a frustrating, taxing environment. By vowing to be reborn in the Pure Land, believ-ers shift their focus. The joys and sorrows of this world become incidental, inconsequential. The present life takes on value chiefly as an opportunity to concentrate one’s awareness on Amitabha, and purify one’s mind accordingly.

The hallmark of Pure Land Buddhism is reciting the buddha-name, invoking Amitabha Buddha by chanting his name. Through reciting the buddha-name, people focus their attention on Amitabha Buddha. This pro-motes mindfulness of buddha, otherwise known as buddha-remembrance [buddha recitation].

In what sense is buddha “remembered”? “Buddha” is the name for the one reality that underlies all forms of being, as well as an epithet for those who witness and express this reality. According to the Buddhist Teach-ing, all people possess an inherently enlightened true nature that is their real identity. By becoming mindful of buddha, therefore, people are just regaining their own real identity. They are remembering their own buddha-nature.

Buddha as such is a concept that transcends any particular embodiment, such as Shakyamuni Buddha (the historical buddha born in India), or Maitreya Buddha (the future buddha), or Vairocana Buddha (the cosmic buddha) or Amitabha Buddha (the buddha of the western paradise). Buddha exists in many forms, but all share the same “body of reality,” the same Dharmakaya, which is formless, omnipresent, all- pervading, indescribable, infinite – the everywhere-equal essence of all things, the one reality within-and-beyond all appearances.

Dharmakaya Buddha is utterly abstract and in fact inconceivable, so buddha takes on particular forms to communicate with living beings by coming within their range of perception. For most people, this is the only way that buddha can become comprehensible and of practical use. The particular embodiments of buddha, known as Nirmanakaya, are supreme examples of com-passionate skill-in-means.

Pure Land people focus on buddha in the form of Amitabha, the buddha of infinite life and infinite light. Believers put their faith in Amitabha Buddha and recite his name, confident in the promises he has given to deliver all who invoke his name. All classes of people, whatever their other characteristics or shortcomings, are guaranteed rebirth in the Pure Land and ultimate salvation, if only they invoke Amitabha’s name with singleminded concentration and sincere faith.

Buddha-Name Recitation

Buddha-name recitation is practiced in many forms: silently or aloud, alone or in groups, by itself or combined with visualization of Amitabha or contemplation of the concept of buddha, or combined with the methods of Zen. The aim is to concentrate one’s attention on Amitabha, and let all other thoughts die away. At first and all along, miscellaneous thoughts intrude, and the m ind wanders. But with sustained effort, one’s focus on the buddha-name becomes progressively more steady and clear. Mindfulness of buddha – buddha-remembrance – grows stronger and purer.

Reciting the buddha-name functions as a powerful antidote to those great enemies of clear awareness that Buddhists have traditionally labeled “oblivion” and “scattering.” “Oblivion” refers to the tendency of the human m ind when not

occupied by its habitual thoughts to sink into a state of torpor and sleepy nescience.

“Scattering” is the other pole of ordinary mental life, where the consciousness flies off in all directions pursuing objects of thought and desire.

Through the centuries, those who practice it have found that buddha-name recitation is a much more beneficial use of m ind than the ordinary run of hopes and fears that would otherwise preoccupy their minds. Calm focus replaces agitation and anxiety,

producing a most invigorating sav ing of energy. “Mixed mindfulness is the disease. Mindfulness of buddha is the medicine.”

According to the Pure Land teaching, all sorts of ev il karma are dissolved by reciting the buddha-name wholeheartedly and singlemindedly. What is karma? In Buddhist terms, “karma” means “deeds,” “actions.” Through sequences of cause and effect, what we do and what those we interact with do determines our experience and shapes our perceptions, which in turn guides our further actions.

Habitual patterns of perception and behavior build up and acquire momentum. Now we are in the grips of “karmic consciousness,” so-ca led because it is a state of m ind at once the result of past deeds and the source of future deeds. This is the

existential trap from which all forms of Buddhist practice aim to extricate us.

According to the Pure Land teaching, buddha-name recitation is more effective for this purpose than any other practice, and can be carried out by anyone. The key is being singleminded, focusing the m ind tota ly on Amitabha, and thus interrupting the onward flow of karmic consciousness. This is where Zen and Pure Land meet.

All Classes Go to the Pure Land

Buddha-name recitation enables all classes of people to attain birth in the Pure Land, from the most virtuous Buddhist saints, to those who are incapable of meritorious actions and do not develop the aspiration for enlightenment [Bodhi Mind].

In Pure Land terminology, “nine classes” go to the Pure Land. The highest class are those who achieve the traditional goals of Buddhism – that is, who free them-selves from desire, observe the precepts, and practice the six perfections of giving, discipline, forbearance, energetic progress, meditation and wisdom. The lowest class who go to the Pure Land are those who keep on, as wayward human animals, piling up evil karma and committing all kinds of sins: even they can attain birth in the Pure Land, if only they focus their minds and recite the buddha-name.

Buddha-name recitation in itself dissolves away evil karma, no matter how – so say the Pure Land teachings. Infinity lies latent in the gaps within moment-to-moment mundanity in the Zen formulation. But above all it is the power of Amitabha that makes birth in the Pure Land possible for sinners as well as saints, because Amitabha has vowed to save all who faithfully and singlemindedly invoke his name.

The Pure Land

Amitabha’s Pure Land is depicted in a way designed to attract believers. In the Pure Land there is no sickness, old age, or death. The sufferings and difficulties of this world do not exist. Those born in the Pure Land come forth there from lotus flowers,

not from a woman’s womb in pain and blood, and once born they are received and

welcome by Amitabha and his assistants. They receive immortal, transformed bodies, and are beyond the danger of fa ling back into lesser incarnations. They are in the direct presence of Amitabha Buddha and the great bodhisattvas Kuan-yin (Avalokitesvara) and Shih-chih (Mahasthamaprapta), who aid in their ultimate enlightenment.

Those who go to the Pure Land live there among beings of the highest virtue. Beautiful clothing and fine food are provided to them ready-made. There are no extremes of heat and cold. Correct states of concentration are easy to achieve and maintain. There are no such things as greed, ignorance, anger, strife, or laziness.

The Pure Land is described, metaphorically, as resplendent with all manner of jewels and precious things, towers of agate, palaces of jade. There are huge trees made of various gems, covered with fruits and flowers. Giant lotuses spread their fragrance every-where. There are pools, also made of seven jewels, and filled with the purest water, which adjusts itself to the depth and temperature the bathers prefer. Underfoot, gold covers the ground. Flowers fall from the sky day and night, and the whole sky is covered with a net made of gold and silver and pearls. The Pure Land is perfumed with beautiful scents and filled with celestial music.

Most precious of all, in the Pure Land, we are told, not only the buddha and bodhisattvas, Amitabha and his assistants, but even the birds and the trees (as manifestations of Amitabha) are continuously expounding the Dharma, the Buddhist Teaching.

Pure Land Literature

Pure Land literature offers many stories presented as real-life biographical accounts which corroborate the efficacy of Pure Land practice, and the description of the Pure Land paradise drawn from the scriptures. Like most Buddhist biographies written in China, these accounts are very terse, and focus on the subject’s religious life. There are stories of men and women, monks and nuns, nobles and high officials and commoners too, people young and old in various stations of life, all devoted to Pure Land practice.

The stories often relate people’s early experience of Buddhism, and note the various practices they took up and the scriptures they studied. In due time, as the stories tell it, their faith in Pure Land is awakened, per-haps by meeting an inspirational teacher, perhaps through a dream or vision, perhaps from hearing the Pure Land scriptures, perhaps from personal acquaintance with a devoted Pure Land practitioner.

The stories always make a point of the zeal and dedication of the true believer in reciting the buddha-name.

Here are some typical descriptions:

“He cut off his motivation for worldly things and dedicated his m ind to the Pure Land.”

“He concentrated his m ind on reciting the buddha-name.” “She recited the buddha-name with complete sincerity.” “He set his will on the Pure Land.”

“She recited the buddha-name day and night without stopping.”

“He recited the buddha-name singlemindedly.”

“She developed the m ind of faith and recited the buddha-name tirelessly.”

“She turned her m ind to buddha-name recitation and practiced it wholeheartedly, never slacking off.”

“The older he became, the more earnest he was in reciting the buddha-name.” This is the message of the Pure Land life stories.

The climax of a typical Pure Land biography comes in the subject’s death scene, when buddha-name recitation is rewarded and the Pure Land teachings are confirmed.

The believer dies peacefully, even joyously, with mind and body composed, in full confidence of rebirth in paradise, reciting the buddha-name. Often the Pure Land devotee is able to predict his or her own death in advance, and calmly bid farewell to loved ones. Some-times the believer receives reassuring visits from Amitabha in dreams or visions to prepare her or him to face the end.

Various signs give proof that the dying person is about to be reborn in the Pure Land. Uncanny fragrances and supernatural colored lights fill the room. Celestial music is heard. Flowers from the Pure Land appear: ye low lotuses, green lotuses, golden lotuses. The dying person sees Amitabha coming from the west to welcome him, or feels Amitabha’s hand on his head, or sees Amitabha accompanied by Kuan-yin and Shih-chih appear to lead him to paradise. The dy ing person sees visions of the Pure Land: Amitabha and his companions seated on a jeweled dais, or the seven jewel ponds, or a staircase of gems leading up to the Pure Land.

Those close to the dying believer receive assurances that rebirth in the Pure Land is imminent. In the most frequent motif, the dying person announces to his or her companions, “Buddha is coming to welcome m e!” The dying person’s relatives dream of a lotus opening in the Pure Land’s jewel pond, with their reborn kinsman appearing inside it. Or the relatives see visions of the deceased riding off to the west on a green lotus. Or the dead person visits the survivors in dreams and assures them that she has indeed been reborn in the Pure Land.

After the person dies, the people in the room perceive a magical fragrance and hear celestial music gradually fading away toward the west. A golden lotus might appear on the death bed or on top of the coffin. The dead believer’s corpse does not decompose. Auspicious colored clouds hang over the funeral pyre.

With elements like these, the death scenes in Pure Land biographies are meant to prove to the faithful that rebirth in the Pure Land is indeed the guaranteed fate of those who recite the buddha-name.


Besides collections of believers’ biographies, Pure Land literature includes other types of works designed to promote faith in the Pure Land teachings.

Many commentaries were composed on the sutras basic to Pure Land Buddhism: the Amitabha Sutra, the Contemplation of Amitabha Sutra (Meditation Sutra). and the Sutra of Infinite Life (Longer Amitabha Sutra).


Pure Land adepts also wrote essays to explain Pure Land beliefs in terms of Great Vehicle Buddhism as a whole, and to answer objections to Pure Land teachings and clarify points of doubt.

Some writers linked the Pure Land teaching to the other currents in Buddhism by picking out references to Amitabha’s Pure Land and buddha-name recitation contained in the Buddhist scriptures and philosophical treatises not identified with the Pure Land school.

There are many records of talks given by famous Pure Land teachers down through the centuries, and personal letters they wrote, urging people to adopt Pure Land practice as the most effective way to make progress on the Buddhist Path.

Pure Land Associations

For many Pure Land Buddhists, an important means of strengthening their faith has been membership in a group of fe low believers. The faithful join to form Pure Land associations, where they can meet regularly with like-minded people to recite the

buddha-name and, if they are fortunate, listen to genuine teachers expound Pure Land texts. Though buddha-name recitation can of course be done alone in private, many people have found group recitation very powerful in helping them to focus their attention. Being part of a community with shared beliefs helps to reinforce the dedication of the individual and his belief that Pure Land is a correct application of the Dharma that really works for people of that place and time. When methods are being applied correctly, the group also provides the individual believer with living examples of the mental strength and unshakable serenity acquired by long term practitioners of buddha-name recitation.

Pure Land adepts often founded teaching centers where people could gather to recite the buddha-name and hear the Pure Land doctrine. They enrolled believers in religious associations dedicated to buddha-remembrance, with their own bylaws for membership, scheduled meetings, and guidelines for practice. Though many monks and nuns practiced buddha-name recitation, and many lay Buddhists pursued Pure Land practice on their own, the typical institutional form of Pure Land Buddhism was

the voluntary association of laypeople, sometimes, but not always, led by monks and nuns.

On a purely social level, Pure Land associations could evolve into communities that offered their members not only ideological companionship and a sense of belonging, but also tangible material support in the form of mutual aid and a network of people who could be trusted and relied on. In many times and places, Pure Land societies have had their own facilities and funds. Under oppressive conditions, where the local social structure offered little security and much institutionalized violence and exploitation, popular religious groupings might become the real locus of loyalty and community feeling.

Pure Land Buddhism as Other-worldly

Among the many varieties of Buddhism, the Pure Land teaching most deserves the epithet “other-worldly,” often erroneously applied to Buddhism as a whole. Pure Land doctrine teaches that this world is an arena of unavoidable suffering and frustration, and holds out the vivid prospect of rebirth in another, better world, where sickness, pain and death do not exist. This world is a hopeless trap, from which we can escape only by the power of Amitabha. Unless we attain rebirth in the Pure Land, peace and happiness, to say nothing of enlightenment, are beyond reach…

From a Buddhist perspective, it is the modern “this-worldly ” orientation to life that is a form of unrealistic escapism and unwarranted pessimism about human possibilities. It is unrealistic because it seeks the meaning of life in gratifications that can only be temporary and partial: it seeks escape from mortality in transient pleasures. It is unnecessarily pessimistic because it ignores or denies the transcendental capacity inherent in humankind: “turning one’s back on enlightenment to join with the dusts.”

Pure Land Buddhism within the Buddhist Spectrum What was the relationship between Pure Land and the other forms of Buddhism in East Asia?

Pure Land teaching incorporated many of the standards and perspectives that were basic in popular Buddhism as a whole, deriving from the Buddhist scriptures. Pure Land teachers urged their listeners to observe the basic Buddhist moral code, to refrain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual excess, and intoxication. Strict vegetarian- ism was encouraged, as a corollary to the precept against taking life. Pure Land people were to give their allegiance to the “Three Jewels,” that is, the enlightened one (Buddha), the teaching of enlightenment (Dharma), and the community of seekers (Sangha).

Pure Land teachers adopted the usual Buddhist moral perspective of cause and effect, of rewards and punishments according to one’s actions. Pure Land people were taught to accumulate merit by good works, such as giving charity to the needy, helping widows and orphans, maintaining public facilities, supporting monks and nuns, contributing money and supplies for ceremonies and rituals, and making donations to Buddhist projects lik e building temples, casting statues and painting images, and copying and printing scriptures. Many Pure Land believers, in addition to reciting the buddha-name, studied and chanted various Buddhist scriptures, like the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and the Flower Ornament (Avatamsaka) Sutra. All these merit-making activities were viewed as auxiliary to the main work of reciting the buddha-name.

Pure Land theorists were faced with the task of clarifying their teaching of salvation through faith in Amitabha, given the mainstream scriptural Buddhist view of salvation as the reward for eons of diligent effort at self-discipline and purification and refinement of perceptions. By holding out the prospect of rebirth in the Pure Land through buddha-name recitation even to sinners, the Pure Land teaching appears to depart from a strict rule of karmic reward, which emphasizes the individual’s own efforts as the decisive factor in spiritual attainment.

The Pure Land teachers explained this apparent anomaly by appealing to the infinite compassion of Amitabha Buddha (as an expedient embodiment of the infinitely pervasive Dharmakaya Buddha), who promises that all who invoke his name w ill attain birth in his Pure Land. The pioneers of the Pure Land teaching indeed took the position that for people in the later ages, the arduous path of self-restraint and  purification proposed in the old Buddhist scriptures was no longer feasible. For average people, the only hope of salvation would be to rely on another power than their own, the power of Amitabha Buddha [in addition to their own personal effort].

The Pure Land practice of reciting the buddha-name bears a family resemblance to the chanting of mantras that plays a major role in esoteric Buddhism. As the Pure Land master Chu-hung said, “Reciting the buddha-name is equivalent to upholding a mantra. After you have gained power by reciting the buddha-name, you will be able to face objects with equanimity.” According to the Pure Land teaching, invoking the buddha-name brings into play the vows of Amitabha Buddha, whose supernatural powers bring those who invoke him rebirth in the Pure Land. The key element is  faith in Amitabha, and the Pure Land teaching is propounded as an easy path open to everyone.


Reciting the buddha-name and chanting mantras can be seen to operate in similar ways, from the point of view of the analysis of the workings of the human m ind taught by Yogacara Buddhism and adopted by the Zen school. Both practices in effect suspend the operation of the discriminating intellect, the faculty of the internal dialogue through which people from moment to moment define and perpetuate their customary world of perception. As the Yogacara bodhisattvas pointed out, people ordinarily are not in touch with phenomena themselves, but rather with mental representations projected onto phenomena. What we ordinarily perceive is not the world itself, but a description of the world that we have been conditioned to accept. The internal dialogue of the intellect holds in place these representations, which make up the world of delusion.

By focusing on the sounds of the mantra or the sy lables of the buddha-name invocation, the internal dialogue is stopped. Once its grip is loosened, the description it perpetuates is suspended. Then other descriptions of reality, other worlds, can come into view (such as Amitabha and the Pure Land, or the interplay of deities visualized in esoteric Buddhism, or the infinite vistas of the Avatamsaka Sutra).


Operating in East Asia, Pure Land teachers had to reconcile their views with the perspective of Zen Buddhism. While Pure Land was the most widespread popular form of Buddhism in East Asia, Zen was the form that was intellectually preeminent.

According to the Zen school, since all people inherently possess buddha-nature, the potential for enlightenment, enlightenment equal to the buddhas can be attained in this lifetime by a properly directed and executed effort to break through the barriers of delusion. Rather than venerating the Buddhist scriptures as sacred but un- attainable standards, the Zen people went to great lengths to apply the perceptions

revealed in the sutras in practice. Generations of enlightened Zen adepts “appeared in the world” to demonstrate a freedom from worldly bonds and a mastery of the Buddha Dharma that proved that liberation was not an unattainable goal. Through their personal example and the unparalleled originality of their utterances, the Zen masters made a great impact on East Asian high culture in the realms of religion, philosophy, and aesthetics. The prestige of Zen was such that the other schools of Buddhists, and Confucians and Taoists as well, all had to answer to its perspectives.

The Pure Land school accepted the Zen perspective as valid in principle, but questioned how many people could get results by using Zen methods. Pure Land teachers granted that Zen might indeed be the “direct vehicle,” but insisted that for most people it was too rigorous and demanding to be practicable. The Pure Land method of buddha-name recitation was offered as a simpler method by which average people could make progress toward enlightenment. The Pure Land teachers pointed out that many who scorned Pure Land methods as simplistic, and who proudly claimed a legiance to the Zen school, actually achieved nothing by stubbornly clinging to Zen methods. “With Zen, nine out of ten fail. With Pure Land, ten thousand out of ten thousand succeed.”

The Zen school itself came to make room for Pure Land methods. From the time of Yung-ming Yen-shou in tenth century China, who was a master of scriptural Buddhism, Pure Land, and the Zen school, the synthesis of Zen and Pure Land figured prominently in the teachings of many Zen adepts.

In the Zen understanding of Pure Land, Amitabha Buddha represents the enlightened essence of our own true identity, while the Pure Land is the purity of our inherent buddha mind. Buddha-name recitation is effective as a means to cut through the deluded stream of consciousness and focus the mind on its true nature. “Being born in the Pure Land” means reaching the state of mental purity where discriminating thought is unborn and immediate awareness is unimpeded.

The synthesis of Zen and Pure Land methods was epitomized by the “buddha-name recitation meditation case” taught by many Zen masters. “Meditation cases” (koans) in Zen are generally short sayings or question-answer pairs or dialogues or action- scenes which were designed for use as focal points in meditation. They were designed with multiple levels of meaning that interact with the m ind of the person meditating to shift routine patterns of thought and open up deeper perceptions. Sustained concentration on the meditation point provides the opportunity for direct insights beyond the level of words.

Examples of meditation cases are: “What was your original face before your father and mother gave birth to you?” “The myriad things return to one: what does the one return to?” “What is the Dharmakaya? A flowering hedge.” “What is every-atom samadhi? Water in the bucket, food in the bowl. ” Sayings like these were everyday fare in the Zen school. The Pure Land master Chu-hung put together a detailed compendium of how to meditate with koans.

In the buddha-name recitation meditation case, the person intently reciting the buddha-name asks himself or herself, “Who is the one reciting the buddha-name?” “Who is the one mindful of buddha?” The question is answered when the practitioner comes face to face with his or her own buddha-nature. The one mindful of buddha is the buddha within us. This is the Zen ration-ale for Pure Land practice. (Excerpted from Pure Land, Pure Mind.)

Dedication Of Merit May the merit and virtues accrued from this work, Adorn Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land, Repaying the four kinds of kindness above, and relieving the sufferings of those on the Three Paths below. May those who see and hear of this, And all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm, All develop the Bodhi Mind, And liv e the Teachings for the rest of this life, Then be born together in The Land of Ultimate Bliss. Homage to Amitabha Buddha!

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