It is said, "Everything is difficult at the start." Whether cultivating, studying, writing an article, or doing anything else, the most difficult part is always at the beginning. Take my participation in the Vigorous Recitation Session. I felt the first two days were the most difficult to get through, while the last few days went well. Similarly, when we first start reading the
Vajra Sutra, if we believe in the principle it expounds, then we will gradually understand its meaning. In cultivation, the most difficult part comes at the start: if we can bring forth the Bodhi mind to take refuge with the Triple Jewel, then eventually we can accomplish Buddhahood.
From my point of view, although the Vajra Sutra and the Vigorous Recitation Session are different Dharma doors, they lead to the same destination and they have the same function -- to teach and transform all the different kinds of living beings. By reciting the Buddha's name, on the one hand, we grow to respect Amitabha Buddha and we pray that he will help us be reborn in the western Pure Land. On the other hand, we purify our minds, reduce desires, and increase wisdom. In the seven-day Dharma Assembly, the rules of not talking, bowing one thousand bows a day, reciting for seven periods, and upholding the Eight Lay Precepts all benefit our body and mind. By keeping silent, we greatly reduce our external involvements. Fewer involvements results in fewer afflictions, greed, hatred and stupidity. Our power of precepts, concentration and wisdom then grows. The daily schedule of seven recitation periods and one thousand bows increases our samadhi power in meditation. Most of all, if we can reach the state of reciting with an unconfused mind, we can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss in the West where we will have endless life, no suffering, no chance to do evil, and a much better chance to realize Buddhahood.
The Vajra Sutra is another Dharma door, that of emptiness. Everything is empty, even the Dharma itself. One verse in this Sutra says, "All conditioned dharmas are illusory, like dreams and bubbles, like dew and lightning. We should contemplate them in this way." All the wonderful things in the world are nothing but dreams, like dew and lightning, beautiful but unreal, gone in an instant. This serves a warning - Even if a person is a millionaire, after he passes away, his wealth will be like a pile ofexcrement. The
Vajra Sutra instructs us to put down all mundane business. All the afflictions in the world come from living beings' attachments to external states, arising from greed, hatred and stupidity.
Living beings need the Buddhadharma to purify their minds. As Great Master Shen Syou of the Tang Dynasty said in verse, "The body is a Bodhi tree, the mind like a bright mirror stand. Time and again brush it clean, and let no dust alight." This is 'the state of ordinary people. The ultimate state of the
Vajra Sutra is no-self, and the Buddhahood is merely a name. Nothing is certified to; only the self-nature is discovered. As the Sixth Patriarch Hwei Neng said inverse, "Originally Bodhi has no tree; the bright mirror has no stand. Originally there is not a single thing; where can dust alight?" Since there is nothing, how can there be defilement? Ultimately, even the Dharma must be renounced.
Although these are two different Dharma doors, in practice they require the same motivation of faith. In the
Vajra Sutra, the importance of the faith is emphasized--if a person makes offerings with as many bodies as the sands in the Ganges River, his merit and virtue is not as great as that of a person who hears the
Vajra Sutra and believes in it. From this, we can know that it difficult to have faith in the
Vajra Sutra, especially since the Sutra tells us to put everything down. A worldly person without wisdom can hardly believe and follow such a principle. Since this Sutra is rather abstract, it stresses the importance of faith.
Faith is also of key importance in cultivating the harma door of reciting the Buddha's name. This Dharma door is both supreme and easy. All you have to do is chant "Namo Amitabha Buddha" without stop and sincerely bow in homage. But perhaps since it is so easy and its merit and virtue is that special, people do not believe in it. Or even if they do, they still have a little doubt in their minds. Therefore, although it appears to be simple, you need firm faith and persistence in order to be successful.
(to be continued)