The Way of studying Buddhism is in understanding the mind and seeing the
nature; in enlightening oneself and others and in perfecting enlightenment
and practice; in understanding the reality of the myriad dharmas of life and
the universe; and in saving all living beings with the supreme Bodhi mind which bestows "great kindness where there are no affinities, and great compassion of identity in substance," enabling them to leave suffering and attain bliss, end birth and death, and also attain the Buddha Way. The study of Buddhism is an education which living beings ought to receive. Why? The Buddha said, "All living beings have the wisdom and virtue of the Tathagata. It is only because of false thoughts and attachments that they are unable to certify to it." Thus, we should study and cultivate the Buddhadharma, get rid of the false to reveal the true, and regain our original face.
In studying Buddhism, one must first
take refuge with the Triple Jewel—the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha—of our own nature, so as to reach the path which is enlightened and not confused, proper and not deviant, pure and not defiled. Next, one should cultivate the three blessings to lay the foundation. They are: (1) Be filial to and support one's parents, respectfully serve one's elders and teachers, be kind-hearted and do not kill, and cultivate the ten wholesome deeds. (2) Receive and uphold the three refuges, be replete with all precepts, and do not transgress the rules of deportment. (3) Bring forth the Bodhi mind, deeply believe in cause and effect, read and recite Mahayana Sutras, and encourage other cultivators to advance. Lastly, choose one Dharma-door to deeply enter, and practice with constant vigor until one attains success.
Presently, we are in the Dharma-ending Age, during which the affairs of the world change constantly, people lead busy lives, obstacles are heavy, and afflictions are abundant. To study Buddhism and cultivate, we should start by selecting what is wholesome. In the holy teachings of the Tathagata, there are infinite Dharma-doors. As long as we use the Bodhi mind to cultivate, any one
of the Dharma-doors will enable us to end birth and death and attain the Buddha Way. However, before we reach certification, in the process of our cultivation there are differences of fast and slow, easy and hard. If one is looking for the perfect, fastest, simplest, and easiest Dharma-door, one which tallies with principles and potentials; whose cultivation allows one to quickly see the nature; which is suitable for people of superior, average, and inferior roots and gathers in people of both sharp and dull faculties; then nothing surpasses the Dharma-door of reciting the Buddha's name with faith and vows, and seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land. All other Dharma-doors rely on one's own strength. Only the Dharma-door of Buddha-recitation relies on the power of the Buddha as well. In relying on our own power, we have to sever all delusions and afflictions before we can transcend the Three Realms. And even if one succeeds in severing and transcending, one must still cultivate in life after life for three great Asamkhyeya kalpas before one can attain the Way. It is extremely difficult. Only by relying on the Buddha's power plus our own strength derived from cultivating the Dharma-door of Buddha-recitation, assuming our faith and vows are true and our recitation is constant and sincere, can we be reborn with our karma, transcend the Three Realms, ascend to the lotus platform, attain the three irreversible positions, and accomplish Buddhahood in this very life. This is truly supreme, truly inconceivable.
The Pure Land Buddha-recitation Dharma-door is usually divided into four methods: Real Mark Buddha-recitation, Contemplation and Thinking Buddha-recitation, Contemplation of an Image Buddha-recitation, and Holding the Name Buddha-recitation. The one which gathers the vastest potentials and is easiest to pick up, the shortest of short cuts, and the most supreme among the supreme is the method of Holding the Name.
So, we will especially discuss the essentials of the method of reciting the Buddha's name, in the hope that students of Buddhism will choose to cultivate this Dharma-door and thus receive the benefit of the Dharma.
I. Its Supreme Features
A. This Dharma-door was spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha without being requested. It is aided by the great kind and compassionate vows of Amitabha Buddha. And it is praised and supported by all Buddhas in the ten directions.
B. From Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas such as Guanyin, Great Strength, Universal Worthy, and Manjushri, down to ordinary mortals, stupid people, and people who have committed the five rebellious acts and ten evil deeds, all can uphold and cultivate this Dharma-door to attain Buddhahood.
C. It enables cultivators to be reborn taking their karma with them, to transcend the Three Realms, to immediately attain irreversibility, and to become a Buddha in one life.
D. With a mind of equanimity, true faith and sincere vows, if one sincerely recites for one to seven days, or merely recites ten times or one time right before the time of death, one can obtain rebirth in the Pure Land.
E. Perfect rebirth: One will live in the same place as all supreme, good people, in one of the four pure lands of Shared Dwelling, Expedient Means, Real Rewards, and Eternal Still Brightness.
→To be continued