The practice of reciting the Buddha’s name allows us to directly transcend the three realms and go to rebirth with our karma. What does it mean to directly transcend the three realms? It means that one travels a short distance and yet achieves great merit and virtue. With other practices, one has to do them one step at a time. For instance, with meditation, one has to meditate until one reaches the the first dhyana heaven, the second dhyana heaven, the third dhyana heaven, and then the fourth dhyana heaven. One attains one level at a time. However, when you recite Amitabha Buddha’s name in the Saha world, your lotus will grow in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The more you recite, the bigger the lotus. The less you recite, the smaller the lotus. If you don’t recite at all, the lotus withers and disappears. Reciting the Buddha’s name allows one to transcend the three realms horizontally, or directly. The three realms are the desire realm, the form realm and the formless realm. Human beings and the beings of the six desire heavens live in the desire realm.
Why do we transcend the three realms horizontally? It’s like a worm inside a piece of bamboo. If it travels vertically inside the hollow bamboo, it has to gnaw through one section at a time and has to go through many sections before it gets out of the bamboo. However, if the worm is smart, it can gnaw a hole horizontally through the side of the bamboo. Reciting the Buddha’s name is like gnawing through the bamboo horizontally. It takes less effort but the achievement is great. So this is how one transcends the three realms horizontally.
What does it mean to go to rebirth with your karma? If you recite the Buddha’s name, then no matter how heavy your offenses are, you can take your karmic obstructions with you to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. However, you can only take karma created before you became a Buddhist, because at that time you did not know that your actions were offenses. Once you understand what offenses are, if you still commit them, then you can’t take them with you. If you know that it’s an offense but you purposely go ahead and do it, you will not be able to take that karma with you.
This is why people who practice reciting Buddha’s name should always try to eradicate their old karma and avoid creating new offenses. When we recite the Buddha’s name, we should be sincere. During these seven days, we should not fear hardship. When we recite the Buddha’s name, we should not be in a hurry, and we should not recite too slowly either. If we recite too fast, then our throats become hoarse. If we recite too slowly, then we can’t hear ourselves clearly, and that way we become drowsy or nod off. In reciting the Buddha’s name, we should be not too tense or too slack. When we are too tense, then we snap; but if we are being slack, then the recitation will drag out. We will succeed only when we are not too tense and not too lax.
A weeklong Buddha recitation session is a rare opportunity. When we recite the Buddha’s name, we should be sincere. We should be reciting the Buddha’s name even if we are at home and cannot make it to the monastery. We should not be afraid of hardship. Last night, I talked about how in the schedule we will walk reciting for half an hour and sit reciting for half an hour. Gwo Li thought that meant we would recite out loud for the entire time while we are sitting. Actually, when we sit, we will change the tempo so we can sit in silence later. So, we will walk reciting for half an hour and then sit for another half an hour. When we sit in silence we can rest, and afterwards we can walk and recite out loud to get some exercise. This is a good method.
It won’t be too hard. And if you work a little harder for the sake of the Buddhadharma, the Buddha will know. When the Buddha sees you, he may say: “Oh! This good man or good woman, in order to seek the Buddhadharma, has no fear of weariness or suffering. This person is extremely vigorous.” However, you should only do as much as you can handle in terms of energy. Do not force yourself if you are not able to handle it; that would be wrong. If you can handle it and work hard at it, then you may come apply yourself; however, if you can’t handle it, it is also okay for you to come and take a rest here.
During this week of reciting the Buddha’s name, let’s see who reaches the Samadhi of Reciting the Buddha’s Name and attains benefit from it.
This is the most perfect practice. It isn’t a matter of how much effort we put in or how much money we spend. “Namo Amitabha Buddha”—these words can lead us to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. By reciting this Buddha’s name just once, we can eliminate the offenses created during birth and death in eighty-one eons. As long as we recite with sincerity, it will work out fine.
What does “Namo Amitabha Buddha” mean? “Amita Buddha” is Sanskrit, and translated into our language, it means Limitless Light and Limitless Life. Limitless Light really means infinite wisdom; Limitless Life means infinite blessings. So why do we recite this Buddha’s name? It’s because long, long ago, Amitabha Buddha had made 48 vows. One vow was that after he became a Buddha, if living beings throughout the ten directions in all lands would recite his name, they will be reborn in his world. If they are not reborn in his world, then he will not become a Buddha. It is because of Amitabha Buddha’s vows that living beings who recite Amitabha Buddha’s name will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. So why would we want to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss? Do we just go there to eat, sleep, and wear clothes? If it’s just like the Saha World, why would we want to go there?
In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, there is no suffering but only bliss—pure bliss. Everywhere in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, there are only men and no women. That’s how strange it is: there are no women there. Someone may ask, “Women give birth to us. If there were no women, then how can there be human beings?” You need not worry about this. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, people are born by transformation from lotuses. When you recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” your lotus in the Land of Ultimate Bliss grows. The more you recite, the bigger the lotus grows, to the point that it is as big as the wheel of a car. After you pass away from this world, your Buddha nature goes to your lotus in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. A while later, the lotus blooms and you see the Buddha. So that’s why it is said that “when the flower blooms, we see the Buddha and awaken to nonarising,” that is, we realize patience with the nonarising of dharmas. Whether you are a man or a woman, you will become a man in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The three evil destinies do not exist there, so there are no hell beings, no hungry ghosts, and no animals.
Once you are in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, whatever you wish to eat will appear as soon as you think about it. And it will be just the right amount so that you get enough to eat and there will be no leftovers. However much you wish to eat, that’s the amount that you will get. In our scientific age, there are many inventions such as the dishwashing machine and the electric stove. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, there is no need to wash dishes or to clean the stove; everything comes naturally. It’s a very great place for lazy people, because you don’t need to do any work—you don’t need to wash clothes nor do you need to wash dishes. The foods there naturally appear, and after you finish eating, you’re done. The dishes vanish by themselves; there’s no need to use human labor to wash them. So the Land of Ultimate Bliss is extremely wonderful; the Land of Ultimate Bliss and everything there is inconceivable. You can eat whatever you want there. For instance, if you like dumplings, then dumplings will show up; there’s no need to buy them or make them—like Gwo Yang who had to work so hard to make those dumplings here. The Land of Ultimate Bliss is a great place. How can it be so fantastic? It’s because in the past Amitabha Buddha made vows, saying, “In the future, my world must surpass any other world.” Even the heavens are not as wonderful as his world. Thus, when we recite the Buddha’s name, we must definitely resolve to be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Once we are born there, the lotus flower will bloom so that we will see the Buddha and awaken to patience with the nonarising of dharmas. All of our friends and relatives will also be nonretreating Bodhisattvas. What are nonretreating Bodhisattvas? There are three kinds of nonretreat: nonretreat in position, nonretreat in practice, and nonretreat in thought. Nonretreat in terms of position means one does not retreat to the Two Vehicles but that one follows the Great Vehicle. Nonretreat in terms of practice means one always practices the Bodhisattva Path and never wants to quit no matter how difficult it is. Nonretreat in terms of thought means one never entertains any false thoughts, such as: “I’ve been practicing for so many years, and I still haven’t attained any results from reciting the Buddha’s name.”
To be continued