When we recite the Buddha’s name, we must bring forth our true mind. Do not recite and have false-thinking at the same time. Whatever we do, we must be sincere. If you are not sincere, there will be no response. If you are sincere, there will be a response. Sincerity means being unselfish and impartial. In the future, you should resolve to devote yourself to Buddhism. There are a few good laypeople who earnestly work for Buddhism. You should also work sincerely for Buddhism. Do not get involved in petty affairs with your family and children. Take Gwo Fang as an example. You worry about your daughter everyday. You should let her go; then she will be fine. Your daughter is just training your patience. You have made many mistakes in the past. Therefore, she is your karmic obstacle that entangles you to see what talents you possess. We recite everyday and say we vow to be reborn in the Western Pure Land. Making vows means to make a resolve. This resolve refers to the willingness to only be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss – not wishing to go to any other world. I am only fond of the Land of Ultimate Bliss of Amitabha Buddha, who is my father and of whom I am the child. I must draw near my father – this is the kind of vow you should make.
A verse says: “We vow to be born in the Western Pure Land...” I make vows to be born in the Pure Land in the West, the Land of Ultimate Bliss. “With the nine grades of lotus flowers as parents.” You could change it to say, “with the uppermost grade of lotus as parents.” You wish to be born in a lotus of the uppermost grade, not the medium or lower grades.“When the flowers open, we will see the Buddha and awaken to the unborn.” This means when the lotus blooms, I will see Amitabha Buddha and realize the state of patience where no dharmas (phenomena) arise. Awakening to the unborn refers to a state where dharma neither comes into being nor ceases to be and yet one is able to endure this state in one’s mind. One is very blissful in this state. Therefore, it’s called the “unborn”. “When the flowers open, we will see the Buddha and awaken to the unborn, and irreversible Bodhisattvas will be our companions.” Then I will have many Bodhisattvas as friends and relatives. We will learn the Buddhadharma together with Amitabha Buddha.
We are participating in the Buddha recitation session right now. Didn’t we recite “We disciples are common people, subject to birth and death”? “We disciples” refers to all the people and the great assembly. The verb “are” in the present tense refers to right now. We are all common people subject to birth and death. Common people are not enlightened yet; they are ordinary living beings. “Burdened by heavy and deep karma and obstacles.” The offenses we create have no form and shape or else they would fill up all of space. Because they have no shape and form, you cannot see the amount of offenses you have created. The offenses are so heavy because they have accumulated since time without beginning. “Deep and heavy karma and obstacles” Karma refers to the offenses we create and obstacles are the hindrances that arise from having afflictions. If you have afflictions, they will obstruct you from bringing forth the Bodhi mind. There is also the obstacle of karma, the offenses created from past lives, which hinders you from cultivation. The other category is the obstacle of retribution, which results from your karma. You should feel great shame at all times, because what you did in the past was very wrong. You should reflect, “I want to change and start anew.” Regardless of what it is, I want to do what is wholesome and right. I wish to seek sympathy to repent and reform.
“Deep and heavy karma and obstacles” are as deep as the sea. We don’t know how deep the sea is. “Heavy” refers to the weight. How do you know you have heavy obstacles? If you have a lot of afflictions, it means you have heavy obstacles. Afflictions and obstacles reciprocate and grow. If you have afflictions, you have karmic obstacles that bring the obstacles of retribution. They keep you in a cycle, turning you around and around. Therefore, if you have heavy karmic retribution, you will have equally heavy afflictions, which refers to the amount of ignorance you have.
What is ignorance? Ignorance is a lack of understanding. For no particular reason, you just don’t comprehend. This is ignorance. You don’t know what is going on. You can’t comprehend why your husband dies and your son or daughter is missing. You have no clue at all. If you understand why, then everything is fine. That’s the way it is. There’s nothing strange about it. So, this is the meaning of “deep and heavy karma and obstacles”.
“Revolving in the cycle of the six destinies.” We transmigrate round and round in the six paths of rebirth like being on a revolving wheel. This life, we are born as a human. Next life, we are reborn as a dog and the life after that, we are a cat. In our future lives, we become a mouse, and then turn into a snake, become an ant or a tiny insect that sucks people’s blood. Such an insect is malicious, always wanting to drink our blood. It thinks about living on people’s blood everyday. Consequentially, it becomes a mosquito that sucks people’s blood all day long. Insects such as mosquitoes, ants and bees, have a lot of anger. Snakes have even more anger.
One can be reborn as an animal, and then turn into a hungry ghost, who will not have any food to eat for the longest time. Since hungry ghosts have no food to eat, their necks shrink to become as thin as needles but their bellies are as big as drums. No matter how much they eat, the ghosts are never full. They can’t find anything to eat for many great kalpas. As a result, they become so hungry that fire flames out of their stomachs. The suffering of being animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings is too great and too much to talk about. Or one could become an
asura. What’s an asura? Asuras love to fight. Those who like to contend and quarrel with people are all considered
asuras. Sometimes, they ascend to the heavens, and at times, they descend from the heavens to become human beings. This phenomenon is called “Revolving in the cycle of the six destinies, we suffer unspeakable pain.” The suffering is too tremendous to be expressed in words.
“Now we have met a good teacher.” Now we have encountered a wholesome teacher who instructs us to recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha”. This is the highest and most supreme Dharma. Therefore, we should recite Amitabha’s name together. When we recite the Buddha’s name, we can end birth and death. Now we have met a good teacher and “we have heard Amitabha’s name and the merit of his vows.” Now we understand how to recite the Buddha’s name. Take a look around. There are so many laypeople. However, how many know how to recite the Buddha’s name? Not very many. Only those who have learned the Buddhadharma know how. “The merit of his vows” – the vows refer to the forty-eight vows Amitabha made at the formative stages of his cultivation in a past life as a monk before becoming a Buddha. This monk made forty-eight vows, every one of which was to rescue living beings. He vowed that if he becomes a Buddha, he will take any living being in the worlds of the ten directions who recites his name to his land so that they can become Buddhas. If those living beings don’t become Buddhas, he himself will not become a Buddha. He will not attain the Proper Enlightenment, which refers to becoming a Buddha.
Regardless of who you are in the worlds of the ten directions, as long as you recite Amitabha Buddha’s name, he will take you to his land to become a Buddha. Due to these causes and conditions, we should resolve to recite the Buddha’s name and participate in the Buddha recitation session. When one joins the session, one will plant wholesome seeds and good roots. The seeds will sprout the shoots of Bodhi some day. When the seeds sprout, they will grow everyday and eventually bear the fruition of becoming a Buddha. What I am teaching you now is the Dharma to become a Buddha. This is an instruction teaching you not to linger in this world. One should see through and put down everything. There is nothing worthy of your greed here. Everything is like a play. My teaching you how to recite the Buddha’s name and learn the Buddhadharma is also a play. Don’t be attached to it and think this is real or everything is real. Nothing in this world is real. It’s all illusory. It’s like you are doing the Buddha’s work in a mirror, which means it’s nothing but a reflection. There is nothing to attach to. When there is no attachment, there will be no worry in your mind. Where there is no worry, there is no attachment. Free from attachment, one is truly liberated and happy. We are talking about true happiness, do you understand?
Therefore, don’t seek to have a false “face”. If someone makes a negative comment about you, you just get angry. If someone praises you, you hold on to this praise. If someone criticizes you, you pout and become angry. You should “not be moved by the eight winds”, which means your mind doesn’t move if people praise you. When people slander you, you are also not influenced. You have the attitude that if someone thinks you are not good, then you are not good and that is quite all right. If you think I am wrong, then I am wrong. But you yourself have to do what’s good. As long as you seek to improve yourself, regardless of how other people criticize you, you do not mind. That’s the attitude you should have. If you behave like this, then you have some samadhi and will not be influenced by external states. Like now, if any of you have any cultivation, your white hair will turn black. Just take a look at how my white hair has become black. Why don’t you try it?
To be continued