I have come again to this little trail by the hills, curved like a crescent moon, lined with towering evergreens on both sides. Peering up ahead, I cannot see where it leads in the distance. I often come to this trail to stroll and recite the Buddha's name. After the rainshower today, I have come here again. While the air is fresh and clean, the trail is especially muddy today. I tread gingerly, trying not to to let the mud splatter my pants. "It's like walking on the edge of a cliff or walking across thin ice," I think to myself. I seem to have spoken this phrase somewhere before.
A vision of my first meeting with the Master more than ten years ago appears clearly before me. I remember the day I took refuge with the Master, on the second floor of Gold Mountain Monastery. Kneeling in front of the Buddhas as the Master instructed, I tearfully repented of my past offenses. The Master went into a small room and came out holding a book on the cultivation of past patriarchs. He turned to a page and gave it to me, telling me to read a certain passage. As I remember, the book told us to eat what other people could not eat, bear what others found unbearable, take what others couldn't take, and practice what ordinary people could not practice. As I read the passage, I kept asking myself, "Can I do this? I can't... I can..." The more I read, the more nervous I became. My palms were sweating, and I stuttered the words even though they were in my native Chinese. When I finished reading, the Master exhorted me, "Only by enduring the bitterest suffering can you become a most outstanding person." After a pause, he asked, "What do you think?" I gazed at the Master stupidly and said, "It's like walking on the edge of a cliff or walking across thin ice."
The Master accepted me as a disciple, but I have only let him down.Thinking back now, I realize how totally inappropriate and irrelevant my answer was.
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Amitabha's body is the color of gold.
The splendor of his hallmarks has no peer.
The light of his brow shines 'round five Mount Sumerus.
Wide as the seas are his eyes, pure and clear.
Shining in his brilliance by transformation
Are countless Bodhisattvas and infinite Buddhas.
His forty-eight vows will be our liberation.
He enables all those in the nine lotus-stages to reach the farthest shore.
Homage to the Buddha of the Western Pure Land,
kind and compassionate Amitabha.
Namo Amitabha Buddha...
For the past few days I have played this tape and followed along in chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name, over and over. When I first began reciting, tears would come to my eyes. Continuing to recite, I entered a state of stillness in which there is no self. While reciting, I contemplated Amitabha Buddha’s golden body appearing in front of me. One day when I went to Gold Mountain Monastery, I took a book of the Elder Master Guangqin from the shelf and skimmed through the photographs and the dialogue between him and the Venerable Master. Another day when I was just waking up, I seemed to see either Elder Master Guangqin or the Venerable Master reminding me to contemplate a lotus flower. Immediately a golden, peach, and white lotus appeared in front of my eyes. When I fully woke up, it dawned on me: “Yes, I should contemplate the lotus upon which Amitabha Buddha is seated. I must not forget.”
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I have recently been helping to transcribe tapes of the Venerable Master's lectures on the Sutras for the International Translation Institute. I have been transcribing the Master's lectures from over twenty years ago on the Ten Dwellings Chapter, Part Fifteen, of the Flower Adornment Sutra. Since not many people have heard or read his explanation, I have given it below:
…….Establishing a Way-place, perhaps constructing it ourselves, requires sincerity of mind. We are almost finished cultivating "emptiness," and after we finish, we want to build a great Way-place. Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I take the Dharma Realm to be the scope of Buddhism; I take the Dharma Realm as my body. Therefore, the things we do have to be great; they have to exhaust empty space and pervade the Dharma Realm. We have to have a great foundation, and then we'll be able to spread and propagate Buddhism into every world and every corner.
In order to do this, we have to bring forth a true mind. Anyone is welcome to bring forth a true mind, but no one is forced to do so. A true mind means that one does everything with sincerity. No matter what we do, or what we cultivate, we should dedicate the merit to this Way-place. People who want to recite the Buddha's name can dedicate the merit of reciting the Buddha's name to the Way-place. Those who recite Sutras can dedicate the merit from doing that to the Way-place. Those who hold mantras can hold mantras and transfer merit to the Way-place. If you like to bow to the Buddha, then when you bow, pray that our Way-place will be established successfully. People who are bowing to a Sutra can also transfer their merit so that our Way-place will be finished sooner－ the sooner the better－ because the people of the world are waiting for us to rescue them! If we can't even successfully build a Way-place, then we've really let down the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
If we believe in Buddhism, we definitely have to make a contribution to Buddhism. So, as a token of our sincerity, we should transfer the merit from everything we do to the successful completion of this Way-place. If people are willing to go on a starving session, that's fine. If people want to have a sleeping session, that's also fine. A "starving session" means you fast, you don't eat. A "sleeping session" means you sit in Chan without getting up. If people want to hold a standing session, standing up day and night without ever sitting down, that's fine, too. We must bring forth a sincere mind. If we are sincere, there will certainly be a response. "If the Way-place is not accomplished, I will never eat or sleep again, and I will remain standing forever." If you make an extremely sincere vow like that, you will definitely obtain a response.
Furthermore, all of you gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division of Dharma-protecting spirits should quickly come forth and, by means of various methods, do your job so that we can accomplish our task. If we fail, it will be because you Dharma-protecting spirits have neglected your responsibility. We are planning to propagate Buddhism into every world, so you Dharma-protecting spirits cannot be idle. You should certainly hurry up and do the work you're supposed to be doing. If you don't, then you're being lazy. No matter who you are, whether you are a human, a spirit, or a Dharma-protecting Vajra, you should do your proper job. Also, all the humans, ghosts, and other living beings who took refuge with me in the past, are doing so in the present, or will do so in the future, should demonstrate your abilities and spiritual powers in response to this matter, helping to bring it to fruition a little sooner.
Through the boundlessly vast power of the Master's vows, we now have the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Truly, one's power in Dharma can be as great as the strength of one's vows. The Master's own life is the very best proof of this.