by Grand Master Chu-hung (The Eighth Pureland Patriarch)
Translated by J.C. Cleary
Edited by Van Hien Study Group
The Pure Land teaching began with the World Honored One Shakyamuni Buddha, and has been disseminated through the generations of sage worthies.
They have divided the one gate of buddha-remembrance into four types: buddha-remembrance through reciting the name [of Amitabha Buddha], buddha-remembrance through contemplating the image [of Amitabha Buddha], buddha-remembrance through contemplating the concept [of Buddha], and reality-aspect (real mark) buddha-remembrance.
Though there are differences among the four types, ultimately they all go back to reality-aspect buddha-remembrance. Moreover, the first three types can be grouped as two: contemplating the concept, and reciting the name. [Buddha-remembrance through] contemplating the concept is explained in detail in the Sixteen Contemplations Sutra (Meditation Suta). Here I will discuss reciting the name. The Amitabha Sutra says:
If a person recites the name of Amitabha Buddha singlemindedly for [a period of form] one or two up to seven days without allowing anything to confuse the mind, at the end of that person’s life Amitabha Buddha and a multitude of holy ones will appear before him. As the person dies, his mind will not be deluded, and he will attain rebirth in AMitabha Buddha’s land of ultimate bliss.
This is the great [scriptural] source from which for myriad generations has come [the practice of] buddha-remembrance by reciting the name, the wondrous teaching personally communicated from the golden mouth [of Buddha]. An ancient worthy said:
As they contemplate the subtleties of the inner truth of phenomena, the minds of sentient beings are mixed [with other concerns than truth]. Since they practice contemplation with mixed minds, the contemplative state of mind is hard to acheive. The Great Sage [Buddha] took pity on them, and encouraged them to concentrate on the recitation of the buddha-name. Because it is easy to invoke the buddha-name, there starts to be some continuity [to their buddha-remembrance].
This teaches that the work of buddha-remembrance through reciting the name is most essential for being born in the Pure Land. If by reciting the name one arrives at the reality-aspect, then this has the same efficacy as subtle contemplation. Beings of the highest caliber must not doubt this.
All you children of Buddha here today, [I tell you this]: in the gate of repentance, everyone must repent – even the sages of the vechicles of the disciples [sravakas] and the solitary [pratyeka] Buddhas, even the great beings of complete mind [bodhisattvas], even those of enlightenment equal to the Buddhas, all must still repent. Since they all must equally repent, don’t they all have to be born in the Pure Land? How much the more so for those at the stage of ordinary mortals and those in the stages of study!
To all of you here today, disciples and others, whatever plane of existence you are in, I respectfully offer [this teaching] to you: all of you must wholeheartedly invoke the buddha-name, and seek birth in the Pure Land. I hope that Buddha’s compassion will extend down specially to you, and gather you in and save you.
A General Call to Remember Buddha
The Amitabha Sutra says:
If people are mindful of buddha, at death they are sure to be born in the Pure Land.
The Sixteen Contemplations Sutra (Meditation Sutra) says:
People in all categories who practice buddha-remembrance are born in the Pure Land.
Thus with this method of buddha-remembrance, it does not matter whether you are male or female or a monk or nun or layperson, it does not matter whether your social status is high or low, or whether you are virtuous or stupid. As long as the singleminded [remembrance of buddha] is not confused, all categories of people will go to the Pure Land, according to how much they practice [buddha-remembrance]. So we know that there is not one person in the world unworthy of buddha-remembrance.
If people are rich and high ranking, receiving the use of everything ready-made, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are poor and destitute, with small families and few relations, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people have children to remember them at their clan shrines, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are childless, and live alone on their own, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people’s children are filial, so they are secure receiving their support, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people’s children are rebellious, and feel no gratitude or love, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are free from sickness, they should take advantage of their good health to practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are infirm, and closely pressed by impermanence, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are old, and do not have much time left, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are young in years, with spirit still pure and sharp, they should practice buddha remembrance.
If people are at leisure, without cares to trouble their minds, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are busy, and can only steal a little free time from the press of business, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people have left home [to become monks or nuns], and wander free of outside material considerations, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are living as householders, then knowing that [worldly life is as impermanent as] a house on fire, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are intelligent, and clearly understand the Pure Land, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people are stupid and dull, and can do nothing else, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people maintain discipline, the discipline which is the order of the Buddha, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people read the sutras, the sutras which are the words of the Buddha, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people study Zen, Zen which is the mind of the Buddha, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
If people awaken to the Path, the awakening that must be witnessed by the Buddha, they should practice buddha-remembrance.
I encourage all people everywhere as a matter of great urgency to practice buddha-remembrance. All categories of people will be born in the Pure Land: the [lotus] flower will open and they will see Buddha.
Seeing the Buddha, hearing the Dharma, in the end they will become enlightened. Only then will they know that their own inherent mind was all along fundamentally Buddha.
Universal Encouragement to Buddha-Remembrance
Studying Buddhism is not a matter of adornments and formalistic practices: the only thing that is important is genuine cultivation of practice. Buddhist laypeople who live at home do not need to dress like monks and nuns. People who keep their hair can make a constant practice of buddha-remembrance: they do not need to abide by the daily schedules of monks and nuns.
People who like quiet can practice buddha-remembrance [alone] in silence: they do not have to form groups and create associations [for the purpose].
People who fear untoward events can practice buddha-remembrance [at home] behind closed doors: they do not have to go to temples to hear the scriptures.
People who know how to read can practice buddha-remembrance according to the scriptural teachings.
Burning incense [in temples] far and wide is not as good as sitting peacefully in a hall at home practicing buddha-remembrance.
Serving misguided teachers is not as good as being obedient and filial to one’s parents and practicing buddha-remembrance.
Making widespread connections with deluded friends is not as good as preserving one’s purity alone and practicing buddha-remembrance.
Storing up merit for future lives is not as good as creating merit in the present by practicing buddha-remembrance.
Making vows and promising expiation [of wrongdoings] is not as good as repenting past faults, undergoing self-renewal and practicing buddha-remembrance.
Studying non-Buddhist books and texts is not as good as being totally illiterate and practicing buddha-remembrance.
Engaging in false talk about the principles of Zen without knowledge is not as good as genuinely main-taining discipline and practicing buddha-remembrance.
Seeking demonic spiritual powers is not as good as having correct faith in cause and effect and practicing buddha-remembrance.
To express the essential point, an upright mind annihilates evil. If you practice buddha-remembrance like this, you are called a good person. If you practice buddha-remembrance while reining in the mind and eliminating scattering, you are called a worthy person. If you practice buddha-remembrance while enlightening your mind and cutting off delusion, you are called a sage.
I urge people who are completely at leisure to practice buddha-remembrance. You have finished arranging marriages for your daughters. Your sons and grandsons are taking care of family business. You are secure and at leisure with no concerns. You should practice buddha-remembrance with your whole mind and your whole strength. Every day recite the buddha-name several thousand times, or even several tens of thousands of times.
I urge people who are half at leisure and half busy to practice buddha-remembrance. You are half through, half not through: sometimes you are busy, sometimes you are at leisure. Though you are not totally at leisure, when you are busy you should take care of business, and when you have free time, you should practice buddha-remembrance. Every day recite the buddha-name several hundred times, or several thousand times.
I urge people who are completely busy to practice buddha-remembrance. You are working on government affairs, or else running around taking care of family business. Though you have no free time, you still must steal a bit of free time amidst your busy life and practice buddha-remembrance. Every day recite the buddha-name ten times in the morning, and several hundred times during the day.
Quoted from Pure Land Pure Mind translated by J.C. Cleary