This afternoon at the three o'clock lecture I spoke about Amitabha Buddha, but I did not finish explaining the term "Buddha." I will do so now.
Previously, the Buddha was the same as every other living being. Not only was he the same as human beings, he was the same as all living creatures, even mosquitoes, bees, and ants. Because he shared this kinship he later brought forth the thought of enlightenment. Having brought forth the thought of enlightenment, he practiced the Bodhisattva Way, benefitting himself and benefitting others, enlightening himself and enlightening others, helping himself and helping others, saving himself and saving others. There was no selfishness in the things he did; he was open and unselfish. He helped everyone. When he cultivated in the causal ground, he gave up his very life to rescue living beings. The Buddha saw a tiger about to starve to death, and he offered his body to the tiger as food. When he saw a hawk on the brink of death, he fed his own flesh to it, slicing the meat from his bones in order to feed it. Think it over: The tiger is the most ferocious of beasts and the hawk is one of the fiercest of birds, but when the Buddha saw that these evil creatures were starving, he gave up his life to save them. Because he had such a great, magnanimous spirit, he became a Buddha.
After he became a Buddha, did he then sit back and enjoy the bliss of Buddhahood? No. He did not forget all living beings. He saved them; he taught and transformed them.
The Buddha has three kinds of enlightenment,
- the enlightenment of others; and
- the perfection of enlightenment and conduct.
He enlightens himself; and he enlightens all living beings, and he has perfected the practices of his cultivation.
Perfect in the triple enlightenment,
Replete with the myriad virtues,
He is called "Buddha."
As to the myriad virtues, in every move the Buddha makes, he benefits others, thus perfecting his virtuous conduct. That is why we call him "Buddha." This has been a general explanation of the term.
Not just a Buddha can realize Buddhahood. Everyone can become a Buddha. That is why our faith in the Buddha is not superstitious [literally, "confused faith"]. Buddhism is not like other religions whose deities claim, "I am the true god. All others are false. No matter how faithfully you believe in me, you will eternally be my inferior. Never can you occupy my position."
Religion such as this is dictatorial, authoritarian, and unjust! On the other hand, everyone can become a Buddha. This is why Buddhism is the most democratic religion, the most just religion. The Buddha is completely devoid of selfishness, thoroughly devoid of desire for self-benefit. He is open, generous, and impartial, straightforward, true, and unprejudiced. He sees all beings as identical with himself and so he wants to take them all across.
Hearing this, someone has become arrogant. Why? It doesn't occur to him that the Buddha became a Buddha by virtue of his cultivation. He says, "Oh, everyone is a Buddha. I don't have to cultivate, I am Buddha! Everybody is a Buddha!"
This person has deviant understanding and heterodox views. It's true that everyone can become a Buddha, but in order to do so, one must cultivate. When you become enlightened you can certify to the result of Buddhahood. If you do not cultivate and have not become enlightened, what kind of a Buddha are you? You are a stupid Buddha, a confused Buddha. Muddled and dense, you understand nothing. You hear others talk about it, misunderstanding them, yet consider yourself a Buddha, too. This is not permissible.
Why do I mention all this? Because in the past I have met many people who have held such views and so I decided to tell you about it.
We will now discuss the Pure Land Dharma-door, Buddha Recitation. The Pure Land is the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, the country of Amitabha Buddha. When the Buddha was in the world, no one understood the Pure Land Dharma-door. That is why not even one of the Buddha's disciples even thought to request instruction in this technique. The Buddha's disciples, with their great wisdom, didn't understand it. No one thought of asking for it, and so the Amitabha Sutra, which we just recited, was spoken by the Buddha without request. All the other Sutras which the Buddha spoke were requested by an interlocutor. For example, in the Vajra Sutra the interlocutor was Subhuti, who asked the Buddha to speak the Sutra. Since none of the Buddha's disciples understood this Dharma-door of Pure Land recitation—not even the great and wise Shariputra—the Buddha spoke the Amitabha Sutra to Shariputra without waiting to be asked. It is an extremely important Sutra and takes across those of great wisdom. Those who lack wisdom are not able to understand it. That we now have met to cultivate this method of Buddha Recitation makes Shakyamuni Buddha very happy and pleases Amitabha Buddha a great deal, too.
To be continued