(Continued from last issue)
Let me talk about my personal experience. Before the Session started, I scraped my left knee and twisted my right knee. Pus flowed from the wounds when I was bowing and sitting in meditation. If I didn't have the inner faith to endure, I would soon have left the Session. All of us relied on this faith to persist until the last moment. During the seven days, it was already not easy to not eat after noon, get up early for the Morning Recitation, and bow one thousand bows a day, not to mention anything else. Faith has great strength. If you have faith, then no matter how difficult something may be, you will no longer suffer. On the contrary, you will be delighted and willing to continue.
I have some understanding and experience of faith because I used to be a Christian. My faith stemmed from my admiration of the Bible's description of Heaven. I felt it was much like the Pure Land in the West, with Saint Peter instead of the Three Sages of the West. People also enjoy endless life there. Therefore, when I heard about the Western Pure Land, I had immediate faith and frequently tested myself. Since this faith came from inside, and was not forced by others, it is true faith.
Sometimes, we ordinary people may have doubts when we do not understand the Sutras. For example, we know that in the recitation session, the more we single-mindedly recite the Buddha's name and bow to Buddha, the better. However, after reading the
Vajra Sutra, we may have a doubt -- since we have to contemplate everything as empty, why do we want the recite and bow as much as possible? And why must we plant blessings and virtue? The Venerable Master answered in his
Commentary on the Vajra Sutra that when we are not creating blessings and virtue, we are creating offenses. That's why we must cultivate blessings and virtue. But we should not become attached to the appearance of blessings and virtue when we cultivate it. My personal view is that without sufficient good roots, blessings, virtue, and causes and conditions, we ordinary people simply cannot attain the state of emptiness. That is why we must do good deeds to plant good roots and to accumulate blessings, virtue and causes and conditions. The day we reach that state of emptiness, everything will be done according to the Middle Way, in a most natural manner. We will no longer become attached to appearances, nor have the thought that we are cultivating blessings and virtue. Therefore, although everything is empty, it is necessary to accumulate virtue.
The merit and virtue of the Vigorous Recitation Session is supreme. But some people in the session compete with others to see who bows and recites the most; others participate in the session only for their own benefit. Such people not only gain no merit and virtue, they also create offenses. When people want to contend, or put self-benefit first, the three poisons of greed, hatred and stupidity appear in their minds and cover their self-nature; then it is easy for them to create offenses and get afflicted. During a Recitation Session, we cannot have any thought of seeking; we must consider others. The number of bows and recitations one makes concern one's own progress, and have nothing to do with other people. Although we transfer the merit and virtue to all living beings, we cannot be attached to the mark of giving, nor think of ourselves. As the
Vajra Sutra says, "When a Bodhisattva who does not abide in marks practices giving, his blessings and virtue are thus incalculable." As revealed in this verse, we must all practice true giving and cultivate real merit and virtue.
In my rough and superficial analysis, we may say these two Dharma doors reach the same destination through different means; they are basically the same with minor differences. They are just names, while the self-nature is one. We may regard the
Vajra Sutra as a theory, and a vigorous recitation session as a practical method. The aim of both is for us to put down all involvements and attachments and restore our original Buddha nature, so that we can end birth and death, leave suffering and attain bliss. As long as we have the good roots, causes and conditions, and faith needed to practice according to the Dharma door, we can ultimately eradicate afflictions, discover the self-nature and realize Buddhahood.