The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua on 
The Buddha Speaks 
of Amitabha Sutra

(from issue 37)

--Commentary translated by Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Text Translated by Disciple Upasaka I Kuo Jung
Edited by Disciple Upasika Tun Kuo Hsun

The Five-Fold Profound Meanings

      The five are: 1) Explaining the name, 2) Showing the substance, 3) Clarifying the principle, 4) Discussing the function, and 5) Determining the teaching mark.

1) Explaining the name: Once one knows the Sutra's name, one can begin to understand its principles. Just like people, each Sutra has its own particular name. According to the Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles explained previously, this Sutra belongs to the first category, Sutras whose titles are established only by reference to people.

2) Showing the substance: Once one knows a person's name, one can recognize him on sight. "Is he fat or thin, tall or short?" One doesn't necessarily have to see his face, but can recognize him by his form. "Oh, it's him!"

This Sutra is a Mahayana Dharma spoken without request and takes the Real Mark as its substance. The Real Mark is no mark. There is no mark, nothing at all, and yet there is nothing not marked. Unmarked, it is true emptiness and with nothing unmarked, it is wonderful existence.

All marks are the real mark:

The real mark is unmarked

With nothing unmarked.

It is without marks and also

Without any non-marks;

It is neither without marks

Nor is it marked by no-marks.

While in the midst of marks one should not attach to marks. True Suchness, the one true Dharma Realm, the Tathagata-store nature, are all different names for the Real Mark.

3) Clarifying the principle: Unless one understands the Sutra's doctrine and objective, he will not understand its principles. Knowing a person's name and appearance, one next discovers his occupation.

The principles of this Sutra are Faith, vows, and holding the Buddha's name, the prerequisites for accomplishing the practice of the Pure Land Dharma Door. One who wishes to go on a journey takes along food and a little money. One who wishes to go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss needs faith, vows and the practice of holding the Buddha's name. 

I. Faith.

Faith is the first prerequisite, for without it one will not make the vow to be born in Amitabha's Land of Ultimate Bliss. You must have faith in yourself, the Land of Ultimate Bliss, cause and effect, and noumena and phenomena. What does it mean to believe in oneself? It is to believe that you certainly have the status to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. You should not take yourself lightly and say, "I have committed so many offenses, I can't be born there." If you have heavy offense karma, you now have a good opportunity to take it along to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Regardless of the offenses you have committed in the past, if you change your mind and reform your conduct, you may be born there, offenses and all.

Taking your karma to the Pure Land refers to past karma, however, not to future karma. Having understood the Buddhadharma, creation of offenses should cease. If you continue to offend, you will absolutely not be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. You may recite the Buddha's name and bow to the Buddha, but you will only be making investments in future Buddhahood. You will not, in this life, be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss because you clearly understood and yet deliberately violated the Dharma.

Before taking refuge with the Triple Jewel, doing things, which are not in accord with the Dharma, can be excused, but to continue such behavior after taking refuge increases the gravity of one's offenses. Knowing one's error, one must truly believe, change one's faults, and say, "I most certainly can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss."

Secondly, you must have faith in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, which is hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddha-lands from here. Before he realized Buddhahood, Amitabha Buddha, as the Bhiksu Dharma Treasury, vowed to create a land where living beings who recited his name could be born.  There's no need to do anything else; it's easy, simple, and convenient. It doesn't cost a thing, and yet this Dharma door is the highest and most supreme, for if you just recite, "Namo Amitabha Buddha" you will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

It is also necessary to believe in cause and effect, to believe that in the past you have planted good roots, which have caused you to encounter this Dharma door of Faith, Vows, and Holding the Buddha's Name. Without good roots, no one can encounter this, or any other, Dharma door. But, just as in planting the fields, unless you continue to nourish and irrigate your good roots, you won't reap the fruit of Buddhahood. So believe that in the past the causes of Bodhi were planted which in the future will bear the Bodhi fruit.

One may say, "You tell me to believe in cause and effect and to believe that I have good roots, but frankly, I don't think I do."

How can you tell whether or not you have good roots? People often ask me to tell them whether or not they have good roots, but I tell them to tell me if I have good roots. They say, "I don't know if you do," and I answer them, "Then how should I know about you?" But I do have a method to teach you how to find out. You have met the Buddhadharma because you have good roots, without them you would not have had this opportunity.

"Granted, I have met the Buddhadharma, " you ask, "but is it possible that I have no good roots?"

If you lack them, plant them. If you don't plant them you will never have any! Whether or not you have good roots is no great problem. The question is whether or not you will plant and nourish them by cultivating according to the Dharma.

For example, the Buddhadharma teaches you not to drink, but you would risk your life to do it. Drunk, with your head confused and your eyes blurry, your brain feels like it is going to split open. This is to walk down the road of stupidity.

The Buddhadharma teaches you not to steal, but if your life were at stake, you would steal. One who truly cultivates according to Dharma even in the most extreme circumstances will not lie, drink, steal, kill, or commit sexual misconduct. Obey the Buddha and refrain from evil. Do not think that minor faults are unimportant, for it's just the minor faults that drag one into the hells or into the paths of hungry ghosts or animals. Believe, then, that you have good roots and that in the future you will reap the fruit of Bodhi.

Finally one must have faith in phenomena and noumena of the Amitabha Sutra. The specific phenomenon is this: Amitabha Buddha has a great affinity with us and will certainly guide us to Buddhahood. The nominal principle is this; we know this great affinity exists because without it we could not have met the Pure Land Dharma door. Amitabha Buddha is all living beings and all living beings are Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha became Amitabha Buddha by reciting the Buddha's name, and if we recite the Buddha's name, we, too, can become Amitabha Buddha.

We should cultivate according to the noumenon and the phenomenon. The Avatamsaka Sutra speaks of four Dharma Realms:

1. The Dharma Realm of Unobstructed Phenomena,

2. The Dharma Realm of Unobstructed Noumena,

3. The Dharma Realm of Noumena and Phenomena unobstructed, and

4. The Dharma Realm of All Phenomena Unobstructed.

Considering these four Dharma Realms, and speaking from the standpoint of our self-nature, we and Amitabha Buddha are united in one, and therefore we have the status to realize Buddhahood.

The phenomenon has a mark and a manifestation. It is conditioned. The noumenon is the doctrine underlying any phenomenal event. For example, in principle, a tree has the potential to be made into a house. Before the house is built, it has that nominal aspect. Once built, the house itself is the phenomenon. The phenomenon appears because of the noumenon. In principle, we can all realize Buddhahood, but we have not phenomenally done so yet. If we have Faith, Vows, and Hold the Buddha's Name, we will arrive at the phenomenon of Buddhahood, just as the tree can be made into a house.

Amitabha Buddha is contained within the hearts of living beings and living beings are contained within Amitabha's heart. This is the phenomenon and the noumenon. You must believe in this doctrine and energetically practice it by reciting the Buddha's name more every day.

When one recites "Namo Amitabha Buddha," in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, in one of the pools of the seven jewels filled with the eight-fold waters of merit and virtue, a lotus flower grows. The more one recites, the bigger it grows, but it won't bloom until the end of life, when one's self-nature goes to be reborn within it. If you wish to know whether you will be born in a superior, middle, or inferior grade of lotus, you should ask yourself how often you recite the Buddha's name. The more you recite the bigger the lotus; the less you recite, the smaller. If one does not recite it at all, the lotus withers and dies.

To be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, you must personally give proof to the result with deep faith, firm vows, and the actual practice of recitation. It wont work to think, Ill sleep today and cultivate tomorrow. If, however, you hold fast to the name and cultivate vigorously, success is certain.

(To be continued)