Interaction with fellow Buddhist practitioners
Since the beginning of 1992, my father [Elder Layman Wei] taught the laity sitting meditation at the Gold Wheel Monastery. Occasionally, he would go up on the stage to share with his fellow practitioners what he had learned from studying Buddhism. Each year Gold Wheel Monastery celebrated Honoring Elders Day and the Dharma Masters would invariably invite my father to participate. My father would dutifully share with the elders information on maintaining health, the secret of his happiness, and his insights from reciting the Buddha’s name.
My father’s most common quote, “Everything in the world is illusory; it doesn’t belong to you. Only happiness is real; it is something you can possess. Time passes by whether or not we are joyful, so why not live happily? When we are afflicted, we might as well recite the holy name of Amitabha Buddha or that of Guanyin Bodhisattva. In this way, unpleasant matters will gradually fade away. If we wish to live happily in our old age, we have to accord with conditions and be content, exercise regularly, worry less and smile more. Whenever we have some free time we can recite the Buddha’s name with a smile on our face. In this way, we will be able to enjoy our autumn years peacefully.”
My father got along well with people, whether monastic or laity, and treated them sincerely. He thus had many friends. If they had some matters to consult him on, he would do his best to analyze the problems or offer some solution. Yet he would never flaunt his seniority and experience.
Having much experience with people, after studying Buddhism, my father could distinguish people’s actual feelings and thoughts. He was able to perceive the genuineness or disingenuousness amidst the intricacies of human relationships, as clearly as if he were holding a mirror in his hand. Yet, he treated everyone around him with compassion and could not bear to hurt anyone. With sympathy, he comforted the dejected ones, and with compassion, he forgave those harboring unwholesome motives. His fundamental character was upright and never obsequious, and this never changed. Whenever he found out that someone had a serious flaw in handling matters, and he considered himself to be unable to influence that person to “cut off all evil and cultivate all good,” he would choose to stay away from that person.
He often advised us, “As a human being, we must constantly cherish kind thoughts and never be too selfish! We must have a sense of fairness and justice. If we fail to master the basic principles of social conduct, then to wish to learn the Buddhadharma is like climbing a tree to catch a fish—it is fruitless!”
My father deeply cared about the elderly fellow practitioners and their parents. He regularly contacted them by telephone to inquire about their life, skillfully advise and comfort them, encourage them to recite the Buddha’s name, exercise more regularly and worry less about worldly affairs. He believed that the best way to care for the elderly was to visit them regularly or contact them and talk to them. He further said, “To help elders realize that life is impermanent, and to encourage them to relinquish worldly concerns and wholeheartedly recite the Buddha’s name so that they can pass their autumn years peacefully, is to walk the Bodhisattva path!”
The process and goal in the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha
Since the end of 1992, my father decided to focus on the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha. After he extensively read some relevant books, he set milestones and goals for learning and practicing mindfulness of the Buddha. He believed that those studying Buddhism must not conform to secular views; instead, they must acquire an efficient method for studying Buddhism.
Accordingly, we must first uphold the precepts. No matter which method we use to practice, precepts are the foundation.
Secondly, we must recite the sutras. In his opinion, in the beginning, one does not need to understand the content of the sutra; instead, one only has to concentrate on reciting the sutra texts wholeheartedly and persistently. The best way to recite is the
vajra [silent] recitation method, as it will not drain our energy. The most essential point is to gather in all our attention. In order to do that, we must first focus on our hearing. When we are reciting the sutra, it is of utmost importance that each word and each sentence be heard clearly and distinctly. My father believed that reciting sutras was to purify and focus one’s mind, that is, to cultivate emptiness.
In 1994, my father made a vow to recite
The Buddha Speaks the Infinite Life Sutra 3,000 times. By the end of 1996, he completed 3,000 recitations of this sutra. Subsequently, he began to study the content of the sutra, and further comprehended the state in which noumena and phenomena are in perfect harmony. He often quoted the teaching of the Venerable Master Empty Cloud as his reference in his practice of mindfulness of the Buddha:
“We should recite the Buddha’s name with our mouth and be mindful of it. Using wisdom, we contemplate the sound, which is neither too slow nor too fast, just like the gentle flow of water. We recite with our mouth and listen with our ears, without having false thinking. Each and every recitation flows into the prajna wisdom of our own nature which is likened to the ocean. In this way, even one recitation of the Buddha’s name could generate immeasurable merit and virtue. Simply with this one recitation, we could rescue numberless living beings. This is called having one mind unconfused: the Samadhi of Mindfulness of the Buddha.”
In 1994, my father and a few laypeople at the Gold Wheel Monastery established a Buddha recitation society. They further consulted the Venerable Master Hua personally regarding this matter. After listening to my father’s explanation on the purpose and goal for establishing the Buddha recitation society, the Venerable Master said joyfully, “Very good! In the future when I’m passing away, you all could support me in reciting the Buddha’s name!” Coincidentally, after the establishment of this Buddha recitation society, the first person whom the members supported in reciting the Buddha’s name in the last moments of his life was the Venerable Master, who entered stillness in Los Angeles on the tenth day of the fifth lunar month in 1995.
The Buddha recitation society held a recitation ceremony in the monastery once or twice a month. The Dharma Masters often invited my father to go up on stage to explain the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha, or share what he had learned from his own practice. My father would investigate the sutra texts carefully at home in advance and would refer to articles written by eminent monks and greatly virtuous ones to verify his understanding of the sutra. He never dared to add his own views for he wanted to avoid making mistakes in the moral law of cause and effect and thus mislead others. In 1997, my father lectured on the
Sutra of the Contemplation of Infinite Life to the fellow practitioners of the Buddha recitation society at the Gold Wheel Monastery for approximately a year. Fearing that he would mislead other living beings, everyday, with utmost sincerity, my father would sit upright and recite the Buddha’s name. He would then contemplate faithfully according to the
Sutra on the Contemplation of Infinite Life.
Afterwards, during a conversation, my father unintentionally divulged that whenever he went for a walk in the early morning, he would contemplate the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. Sometimes the image of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas would manifest in the sky, precisely as described in the
Contemplation Sutra. He cautioned me, “To be mindful of the Buddha using the contemplation method is not an easy matter; one must have a foundation in sitting meditation. Without sufficient concentration power something can go wrong!” Yet, he still insisted on explaining the
Sutra on the Contemplation of Infinite Life to his fellow practitioners. He believed that in this way, they would clearly comprehend the remarkable wonders of the Land of Ultimate Bliss and further aspire to rebirth in that land. Through this they would develop a firm vow and unwavering faith!
From 1999 to 2002, my father concentrated on studying
The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra and shared what he had learned with his fellow practitioners. During this period of time, my father mostly explained the Buddha recitation method in the practice of mindfulness of the Buddha, and mostly recommended the “method of ten recitations” and the “ten recitations counting method”. In addition, he studied the essentials of the ways the patriarchs of the Pure Land tradition cultivated themselves, which he very patiently shared with his fellow practitioners in order to inspire them to practice vigorously.
To be continued