Tuesday, August A 9, 1975 (afternoon)
Today is the second day of the Buddha Recitation Session. Yesterday you didn’t know what the recitation of "Namo Amitabha Buddha" was all about, and so I explained it to you. By now, each of you should know how to apply effort in reciting the Buddha's name. When reciting, don't sing too loudly or it may injure your constitution. However, if you recite too quietly, it's easy to doze off and lose your vitality. When you are drowsy, you are not able to hear yourself recite. If you can't hear yourself recite, then "Namo Amitabha Buddha" will not be present in your heart. So it is necessary to recite out loud so that your ears hear the sound clearly and distinctly, and your mind contemplates the sound clearly and distinctly. Don’t waste even a single second. At all times be mindful of your Buddha Recitation. Say "Namo Amitabha Buddha" with sincerity and concentration.
Your mindfulness should be uninterrupted. Continue reciting at all times without a break. Last night I explained the first of the four techniques of recitation, "contemplating by thought." Today I will continue with the second, "contemplation of an image Buddha Recitation."
When you contemplate using thought, Amitabha Buddha’s Dharma body is so large that it is not easy to expand the measure of your mind to contemplate it. As an alternative, you may set up an image of Amitabha Buddha and practice mindfulness of the Buddha while facing the image. Look closely at the white hair-mark between the Buddha’s eyebrows. The white hair-mark will emit a great light which will travel to the end of space throughout the Dharma Realm, so that all places receive the illumination. Within Amitabha Buddha’s light appear limitless Buddhas and countless Bodhisattvas. This is the method called "contemplation of an image Buddha Recitation."
The third is "holding the name Buddha Recitation" in which one repeats the six-syllable vast name, "Na-mo A-mi-to-fo," that is, "Namo Amitabha Buddha." This technique is divided into audible recitation and soundless recitation. Here in the Dharma assembly we practice audible recitation. When the bell is rung, everyone recites "Namo Amitabha Buddha" in unison, making a melodious sound. Soundless recitation refers to the period when we sit in silence while singlemindedly reciting "Namo Amitabha Buddha." This is called "silent recitation," or "vajra recitation."
Of all the Dharma-doors in Buddhism, Buddha Recitation is the easiest one to cultivate, as it
Receives the beings of the three dispositions,
And gathers in both the intelligent and the dull.
Living beings are of three dispositions: a superior disposition, that is, people with wisdom; a mediocre disposition, that is, people of average intelligence; and an inferior disposition, that is, people who are very stupid. This method benefits both the young and the old, and works for both the intelligent and the dull. Intelligent people are those with wisdom and dull people are the stupid ones. People with wisdom who recite the Buddha’s name can easily gain a response. People who are stupid who recite will also find it easy to gain a response. Therefore the recitation of "Namo Amitabha Buddha" on the one hand saves effort and on the other costs nothing. It’s the most convenient Dharma-door of all. Not only is it convenient, it is the most expedient of all expedient methods, the shortest of all short cuts, the most wonderful of all Dharma-doors. Some people may say, "What’s the significance of the phrase "Na-mo A-mi-to-fo?" Its significance is profound and vast. Its wonder cannot be exhausted in speech, nor can its advantages.
When the Buddha dwelt in the world, that era was called the Proper Dharma Age. At that time, the Buddha taught the Dharma and there were certified Arhats and great Bodhisattvas; the sages were dwelling in the world. TheDharma-image Age followed next, after the Buddha entered Nirvana. During this period people who cultivated the Way were few; those who were attached to external appearances and concentrated on making Buddhist images were many, but genuine cultivators were few in number.
After the Dharma-image Age, came the Dharma-ending Age. The Proper Dharma Age lasted for one thousand years. The Dharma-image Age lasted another one thousand years. That’s two thousand years in all. The Dharma-ending Age endures for ten thousand years. We are now living in the Dharma-ending Age. What does the phrase "Dharma-ending" mean? It means that the Dharma has nearly come to an end and is about to disappear. The "disappearance" of the Buddhadharma involves the disappearance of belief in the Buddha. In the Dharma-ending Age, living beings’ faith in the Buddha is not firm. When the Buddha dwelt in the world, people’s faith was so firm that if you held a person at knife-point and threatened his life saying, "Don’t believe in the Buddha or I’ll murder you," he would rather die than surrender his belief. That’s how solid in faith the people were during the Proper Dharma Age.
To be continued