December 11, 1972                      Dharma Talks

Day #4

Continued from issue 43

To have you still pursuing your work so diligently in reciting the Buddha's name in spite of the cold weather is certain evidence of sincerity, because if you were not serious you wouldn't be able to continue in this cold.

Today's gatha says:

Through whirling snow on icy cliffs, whitening the sky,
      Red lotuses burst forth today in bloom all over the earth.
      In infinite layers the Buddha's light illumines without end;
      Each syllable of the Buddha's name nurtures the Dharma Source.
      In a finger snap the work is done just as you once had wished,
      And disasters wrought in lives gone by in a flash are melted away.
            In contemplation, still and pure, find constant happiness;
      Great Men's accomplishments in the end are brought to bear their fruit.

Here in the chill of the Great Hall it is we who are the cold cliffs and whirling snowflakes, which fill the sky. Although the air is white with snow it is still possible for red lotus flowers to appear, because our recollection of the Buddha's name can cause a lotus to blossom. This flower is not as small as the lotuses we ate used to seeing, but is as large as a carriage wheel. Each person who is mindful of the Buddha will be born in the future from a lotus flower such as this; when the flower opens he will see the Buddha and understand the patience of the non-production of dharmas.

The Buddhas of the ten directions all emit light with which they give us a physical examination to see if we have any illnesses. This examination takes place because we are currently filing our immigration papers for entry into the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Whenever you recite the Buddha's name you plant a seed in the field of your Dharma nature. Reciting the Buddha's name is also like applying fertilizer, for if you recite a lot and are sincere in your recitation your lotus will be grade A and the fruit superb and unblemished. If your recitation reaches a point of single-minded concentration free from distraction, then on the verge of death you will be without sickness and pain, just as if you had entered Ch'an samadhi. You will be reborn in the Western Land from within the lotus blossom, which you yourself have already nurtured. If you do not recite your lotus flower will wither from lack of water and fertilizer.

If you can continually use effort your wish will be fulfilled and you will be reborn in the flick of a finger. You karmic obstructions from past lives will instantly melt away and you will obtain the still bright permanent and pure happiness. When this occurs the great man's job is done, his work is fully perfected, and all his wishes are realized.

The most important point of a Buddha recitation session is to melt away the drift of false thoughts so one becomes as spotless and pure as the driven snow. Therefore the gatha speaks of "the whirling snow on the cliffs." The cold cliffs represent one's drifts of false thoughts. When these are melted away one can return to his origin, realize the purity of his self-nature, and thereby be born in the red lotus, the lotus reserved for pure, undefiled people.

There is a simple analogy used to describe the Dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha which, although not totally apt, is nonetheless worth knowing. A living being in the three realms is like a worm caught in a section of a bamboo stalk who is trying to bore his way out. In the practice of other Dharma doors one must avail oneself of a step-by-step process in order to crawl out. This in not too appealing. Let us look, for example, at the Dhyana, Vinaya, Teaching, Secret, and other schools. One must practice Dhyana for a long time in order to attain samadhi. In following the Vinaya School one is required to memorize volumes of precepts and rules and to carefully uphold them without the slightest negligence. Those involved in the teaching school must read and recite the sutra texts and lecture sutras and speak Dharma. They must also divide the doors, discriminate the classes, articulate the sects, apportion the teachings, and be involved with many appellations and distinctions. Therefore it is said, "Ceaselessly discriminating names and appearances, like trying to count the sands of the sea, will only hang one up." Cultivating the Secret School one must pass through many stages. One step, two, three, four steps in sequence one proceeds in his practice until he reaches a state of samadhi. This step-by-step process is likened to the worm gnawing his way vertically through the bamboo, section by section.

There is another worm in the bamboo who is smart enough to gnaw his way straight through the side of the stalk. The sections of bamboo represent the difficulties encountered as one tries to leap out of the triple realm, whereas escaping through a hole in the side is a shortcut analogous to the Dharma door of reciting the Buddha's name. You get out of the triple realm and are reborn in the Western Land while packing your karma from past lives with you. This does not mean, however, that you can create new karmic offenses and expect to cart them off to rebirth in the Pure Land. If you continue to make fresh karma then you are considered a hopeless case. Even the greatly compassionate and kind Amitabha Buddha himself has no way to save you.

Strange. In meditation I was confronted by woman who wished to argue with me about the earthquake. When her efforts proved futile she began to cry, whereupon I said, "The earth will not quake until such time as three suns rise in the west and set in the east." These words caused her great sadness and she walked away. However, her spiritual penetrations were not small and before long three suns rose from the west and set in the east and at that moment the earth was on the verge of quaking. I recognized this, however, for what it was and immediately said, "This is all empty and false. It is not true." As soon as I said these words the whole thing dissolved.

Do you think this was false or not? I can assure you it was false.  What is true is recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name. Through recitation of the Buddha's name you can end birth and death, and then even if the sky falls in or the earth erupts, you need not be concerned. The Dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha is of utmost importance, for by means of it you can conquer all, disasters and difficulties.

To be continued

The foregoing talk was given by Dhyana Master Hsuan Hua during the 1972 Winter Cultivation Session at Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery. All of the instructional talks given by the Master during the three-week session will appear in future issues of Vajra Bodhi Sea. The talks were transcribed and edited by Upasika Fong Kuo Wu and translated by Bhiksunis Heng Yin and Heng Ch’ih. (The Chinese text for the preceding Dharma Talk is found on the following page.)