Dharma Talks

Instructions given by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua during a fourteen day Buddha recitation session held at Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery, San Francisco, California, in December 1972:

--Transcribed by Disciple Upasika Fong Kuo Wu
--Translated by Disciples Bhiksuni Heng Yin and Bhiksuni Heng Ch’ih

December 8, 1972

Day #l

The Buddha Amitabha is the great Dharma king.

May his Bodhisattva guide you to the Western Land.

Morning and night, hold his name, with sincerity recite it,

At all times in contemplation think upon it well.

With one heart unconfused, you'll realize samadhi 

When all creation's void, you will enter the lotus land.

Suddenly enlightened to the uncreated the Buddha appears in person

And wonderful enlightenment is naturally attained.

This eight-line verse praises the Buddha Amitabha, the great Dharma king. Amitabha translated from Sanskrit means "limitless light" and describes his unlimited wisdom. He is also named Amitayus which means "limitless life," symbolizing his unlimited blessings. Because he is complete with both blessings and wisdom, he is called the Buddha of Limitless Life and Light.

The Buddha has perfected great friendliness, compassion, joy, and impartiality. Having attained blessings and wisdom, his unselfish wish is to lead all living beings to attain them, and so it is that all living beings who recite the Buddha's name will realize Buddhahood. The two words "Amitabha Buddha" are inconceivable, and within the Buddhadharma Amitabha is the great Dharma king.

Those who recite the Buddha's name have good roots. All you need to do is recite, and without spending money or effort, you too can attain limitless life and light.

"But isn't this a bit too much of a bargain?" someone may ask.

The reason for the cut-rate simplicity of this method is that in former lives when Amitabha Buddha was cultivating the Way, he practiced many methods and underwent thousands of tens of thousands of bitter experiences, all without success. Accordingly he made forty-eight, great vows, one of which states that a person need only recite his name to be assured of rebirth in the Western Land and the attainment of orthodox enlightenment. Until this vow is fulfilled Amitabha himself will not realize Buddhahood.

Our recitation is like sending a telegram, or radar waves, to Amitabha in the West and at the end of 'our lives the Bodhisattvas will guide us to rebirth in the Western Pure Land.

Morning and night, in motion and stillness, at all times you can recite. While moving you can recite and change this motion into stillness and when still you can recite to turn this stillness into motion. When there is neither motion nor stillness, your telegram to Amitabha has gotten through and you've received his response.

If you maintain your recitation with undivided attention morning and night without stopping, you may recite to the point that you don't know that you are walking when you walk, you don't feel thirst when you are thirsty, you don't experience hunger when you are hungry, you don't know you are cold in freezing weather, and you don't feel the warmth when you are warm. People and dharmas are empty, and you and Amitabha Buddha have become one. "Amitabha Buddha is me and I am Amitabha Buddha." The two cannot be separated. Recite single-mindedly and sincerely without false thoughts, don't listen to the matters of the world, and don't pay attention to worldly concerns. When you don't know the time and don't know the day, you may arrive at a miraculous state.

You may ask, "But isn't this stupidity?"

In fact, rather than having become stupid, it is best that your great wisdom appears to be stupidity. Confucius said, "I have spoken with Hui for a whole day and he has not contradicted me, as if he were stupid. But I have examined his actions when he retires from me and found that he puts the teachings into practice. Hui is not stupid." (Confucian Analects, II, Chapt.9.)

      I remember when I was young and first started school I was very dull.  I studied over and over again but couldn't remember my lessons, and if I did manage to learn them, I forgot them when I stood before the teacher to recite. Then suddenly my intelligence opened and I was able to recite a work having read it only once, and could master in an hour what took other students five days to learn. I became arrogant and proud. My teacher said to me, "Who would have thought that such a stupid person could become as intelligent as Yen Hui?"

When I heard this, I shivered in fright. "Will I die as young as Yen Hui did?" (Yen Hui, Confucius' most intelligent disciple, died when he was only thirty-three trans. note) So I quit being arrogant and determined never to be jealous of another person. I took this as my guiding principle and wished that everyone would surpass me. The better others are than I, the more I like it. At that time I also gave myself the name "Semblance of Stupidity."

At all times contemplate the bright countenance of Amitabha Buddha and don't lose track. At ail times remember his wonderful realm and don't think about the matters of the world. With one heart unconfused you may enter dhyana samadhi; ail worries and afflictions will completely disappear as you enter the lotus land and enlighten to the unconditioned. This is to understand your own original face. Wonderful enlightenment is just the Buddha, is just to arrive at Buddhahood. It's not enough just to say, "I want to be a Buddha," and thereby become a Buddha; on the contrary, you must work with great effort to realize Buddhahood.

If you can recite with one unconfused heart, you may arrive at the state where the ten thousand dharmas all are empty. You may then let go of everything and obtain independence and purity. So the Dharma door of Buddha recitation is ineffably wonderful.

When you have recited enough to have gained some skill, not only will you not feel thirsty, but you will feel as if you were drinking sweet dew.  Don't become attached, however, for if you do your greedy thoughts for sweet dew will cause this fine state to vanish. You may also recite until you see light, the Buddhas, or lotus flowers. But don't be greedy for these states either or in your delight they will disappear. 

     This is the first day of the session and there is still much time in which to obtain a single unconfused heart and experience these fine status.  Whatever you do, don't be lazy and wait around thinking you have a lot of time.You must recite earnestly and not waste your days. In the evening, during the Great Transference of Merit Ceremony, beeven more sincere and determined to attain good results. If instead you waste your time, you will have undergone all this bitterness for nothing. Wouldn't that be a shame?