ounting on my fingers, I found that I had left the home-life for ten years. One day the Master said to me, “You have left the home-life for a long time. What do you do in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas? Which Sutra can you lecture on?” “This disciple is ashamed. I cannot lecture on a single Sutra. I have been focusing on work, and so I neglected to study the Sutras.” “What do you do?” “I like to clean and organize things.” “That will not do. You only sweep clean the world outside, but the inside is still messy. You don’t have a bit of cultivation. Why do you have so many idle thoughts?”
The teacher’s words made me suddenly realize: “Ah! So I have been picking up behind other people and not cleaning up the dust and filth in my mind. All day long, I spend my time indulging in idle thinking, discrimination, and attachment.” From that time on, I have never dared to skip the morning and evening recitations. When it is time to work, I put all my effort into working; and when it is time to attend the Dharma sessions, I set the work aside and concentrate on reciting the Buddha’s name or the Sutras. If I miss morning recitation, I feel uneasy all day long, as if something were missing. Therefore, unless I am seriously ill, I always follow the assembly to the Buddha Hall to attend morning recitation.
The Sutras and mantras are the same, but the feeling and the benefit derived from the recitation are different every day. With every recitation of the Buddha’s holy name, my mind becomes a little brighter and a few more of the afflicted living beings of my nature are saved. One day, I had an idle thought upon waking in the morning, “I don’t seem to feel well today.” With this idle thought, I suddenly felt sore all over and could not move. But then my thinking turned around and I thought to myself, “Unless you die, you must go!” I forced myself to get up and go to the Buddha Hall. After the morning recitation, I not only felt fine, but without my knowing, the illness was also gone!
Recently, I was affected by external states again; with many idle thoughts arising, my mind resembled a fidgety monkey or a wild horse. Such polluted thoughts led me to the point of backsliding in my cultivation. Caught up in extreme fear, uneasiness, self-reproach, and confusion, I happened to see the most adorned picture of the Master. As I gazed at the Master’s kind and compassionate smile, a bright light seemed to shine from between his brows and touch me. Immediately, I placed my palms together in repentance and made a full confession. In the radiance, I felt as if the Master were saying to me, “Don’t be afraid. Just bravely correct your faults and repent sincerely, and I will forgive you!” In that moment, I felt that behind the most defiled thoughts, there was also a bright side to my mind. As it is said, “affliction is Bodhi.” It all depends whether one can turn it around. With newly-discovered faith and strength, I was able to face reality, and once again I concentrated my scattered mind to the point of “having no mind when facing states.” Just when I thought I had no mind and felt happy about it, more states immediately manifested. Once again, the calm mind was disturbed and confused.
Not long afterward, the assembly was going to recite the Great Compassion Mantra 108 times. I concentrated on reciting the mantra loudly. The small mallet swiftly hitting the small wooden fish seemed to be striking at the myriad layers of affliction of ignorance. A tremendous and inconceivable stabilizing power derived from the assembly’s recitation of the Great Compassion Mantra cleansed the defiling dust from my mind. Waves of Dharma-joy filled my mind; a continuous feeling of lightness and ease gradually brought me peace. It is said, “When the nature is settled and demon are subdued, every day is happy. With no false thoughts arising, every place is peaceful.” It is wonderful and strange that when the inner state is calm, the external state also quiets down. As it says in the Avatamsaka Sutra, “All Buddhas can, in a single mote of dust, manifest an ineffably ineffable number of Buddhas turning the pure Dharma-wheel. All Buddhas can, in a single mote of dust, manifest an ineffably ineffable number of living beings who are being taught, regulated and subdued.”
That test had passed. However, just a little later, my idle thoughts and attachments from beginningless ages and the thieves of the six sense organs again brought out people and affairs which I had long forgotten. (I vow to kill every one of these thieves of affliction!) As a result, I gave rise to many confused and defiled thoughts during the evening recitation, and I could barely recite the Sutra. Abruptly, I raised my head and looked up at the Buddha image, so adorned, pure, and free of defilement. I seemed to see the bright light emitted from between my Teacher’s brows, and his pure and clear eyes. Immediately, I felt an inconceivable strength which enabled me to discard all the confused and defiled thoughts and concentrate on hitting the large wooden fish and reciting loudly the Eighty-eight Buddhas Repentance Ceremony with the assembly. I repented as soon as the idle thoughts arose. The great principles in the repentance text expanded my mind. The praise to Amitabha Buddha and the recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s holy name following the repentance completely purified my mind. In that instant, the views of people, self, living beings, and life span disappeared; the defiled affinities between others and self were also gone. Instead, pure lights reflecting one another appeared. The inherent nature is originally pure and clean. It is only because of one thought of ignorance that, “In the midst of the sameness of dharmas arise the notions of self and others. In all existence, love and views are the basis, and body and mouth are the conditions: with them no offense is not created.”
The cold wind which blew in from the window and the sound it made shook me to alertness and vigor. I felt moments of purity and cleanness. However, idle thoughts surfaced again in no time; I quickly switched to investigating “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” I did not find the “who,” but when the “who” came up, the idle thoughts were instantly extinguished. When idle thought arose again, I again investigated “who.” As it says in the Avatamsaka Sutra:
When true suchness separates from falseness, there is constant stillness. Neither produced nor
destroyed, it is universally pervasive.
Thoroughly understand that the nature of all dharmas
is still and extinct,
Like birds flying through space, leaving no trace.
If one wants to know the Buddha’s state,
He should purify his own mind so that it is like the void.
Leave false thoughts and the myriad attachments far behind
So that the mind will have no obstruction wherever it goes.
On the path of cultivation, I am like a person stricken with malaria which attacks every other day. Sometimes I am okay; other times I am not. Although the path is winding and difficult and stretches on with no end in sight, I am willing to honestly walk upon it, step by step, until I accomplish my cultivation. By the power of the vows and conduct of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, I vow to give rise to profound faith and understanding of present knowledge and views, and to make offerings of supreme wonderful Dharma to all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time throughout the Dharma Realm and empty space. As it says, make the offering of cultivating according to the teachings, of benefiting living beings, of standing in for all beings to undergo their suffering, of diligently cultivating good roots, of not forsaking the deeds of Bodhisattvas, and of not renouncing the Bodhi mind. The merit and virtue of such offerings are dedicated to supreme Bodhi, in the hope that all cultivators and all living beings will soon realize Buddhahood.