A long time ago there was a visiting monk in Hong Kong, who also studied the Buddhadharma. Later he just proclaimed himself a patriarch. He also lectured on the
Amitabha Sutra. However, as he lectured, he would slander the Sutra. According to the sutra, “Passing from here through hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands to the west, there is a world called Ultimate Bliss… All living beings of this country endure none of the sufferings, but enjoy every bliss.” Instead, he argued, “Has any land surveyor actually measured the distance? Who came up with such a remote distance? What method did that person use to measure the land? Think about it, isn’t it just a fairytale?” Listen to the way he spoke! He said he did not believe the distance was 100,000 million countries because no one had measured it. He said, “It could be 110,000 million, or 90,000 million. How do we know for sure the distance was 100,000 million worlds?” Look! He used logic and modern science to prove that the
Amitabha Sutra was wrong and misleading. He believed only in the
Dharma Flower Sutra and said that it was the only authentic sutra and the rest of sutras were apocryphal. Therefore, he formed a Mind-Only Buddhist Association, which attracted many followers in Singapore and Malaysia. They were impractical and thinking to be dominant there. It was pretty pathetic! He was of the old generation and is now gone. However, the new generation has inherited his old teaching. A lot of people were influenced by his beliefs and led astray. People who were just starting to learn the Buddhadharma wished to improve themselves, but instead they ended up following a demon. Wherever we listen to Dharma talks, we must have proper knowledge and views. After listening to the Proper Dharma, we should feel happy and pleased. Whenever listening to the “dharma” spoken by people with misguided views, we should feel as pained as if 10,000 arrows pierced our hearts. How could we accept, pass on, or follow their teachings?
Q: The Western World as described in the Amitabha Sutra is such a wonderful place. Everyone is determined to learn Buddhism and recite the Buddha’s name, and hopes to be reborn to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Isn’t this a form of escapism? Aren’t they trying to enjoy the benefits without putting in the work?
A: There are 84,000 methods of practice in Buddhism. Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Pure Land dharma of his own initiative, without being requested. This is an unimaginable dharma. It is difficult for living beings to believe in such a dharma. It’s difficult to believe but that does not mean that it is unachievable.
Q: Whenever we encounter problems, others’ experiences do not necessarily help us solve our own problems. Why should we recite the Buddha’s name and recite sutras? Could Venerable Master explain?
A: We are not reciting the Buddha’s name to solve problems. Rather, we do it as part of the Pure Land dharma so we can be reborn in the Land of the Ultimate Bliss. We are stocking up provisions for the future; not for solving anyone’s problems. Reciting sutras can increase our wisdom. The reason you can’t solve any problems including the ones you face now is that you lack sufficient wisdom. Once you have enough wisdom, you will easily resolve all problems and be clear and decisive about what to do.
Q: When we recite the Buddha’s name, does that mean we are going to leave the homelife?
A: Why should reciting the Buddha’s name indicate that you are going to leave home? If reciting the Buddha’s name leads to leaving home, then what should monastics recite?
Q: What is the difference between reciting Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s name and Amitabha Buddha’s name? Will the result be the same?
A: The moment you start differentiating, you definitely won’t get any result.
Q: While reciting the Buddha’s name, people sometimes forget about everything, even forgetting to breathe. Could you tell me if this is considered drowsiness?
A: Wouldn’t they be better off dead? [The audience applauds]
Q: Last week was my first time joining the recitation session, and I could not believe that I was crying. Were my tears caused by my heavy karmic obstacles?
A: You’ve probably had too many unpleasant experiences in the outside world, and cried because you gained a bit of insight.
Q: How can we strengthen our mind and be focused in reciting the Buddha’s name?
A: Eat a little less.
Q: How do we conquer the scattered mind whenever reciting the Buddha’s name? What method can we use?
A: The more you recite, the less scattered your mind is. You should recite one day, two days, three, four, five, six, up to seven days singlemindedly! Since you recite only sporadically, of course you cannot stay focused.
Q: Every time I recite sutras and the Buddha’s name, my whole body feels hot and bloated. Is it because the beings in my nature have come alive?
A: What do the beings of the nature look like? Are they black? White? Yellow? Red? All forms are illusory; why attach to them? It is because you are nervous that you experience such states. If you are not nervous and not pretentious, you will not feel that way.
Q: Does being singleminded and undistracted mean that when dealing with things in daily life, the Buddha’s name will spontaneously arise in our mind without interruption?
A: Being singleminded and undistracted means reciting in thought after thought. When you become skilled in your practice, you will attain the
samadhi of mindfulness of the Buddha. Samadhi is Sanskrit and is translated as right concentration and right perception. Right concentration differs from wrong concentration. Right perception differs from wrong perception. Once you achieve right concentration and perception, your mind will be singleminded and undistracted. You will not have any wandering thoughts. That is what it means. There is nothing tricky about it and there are no shortcuts. How can I acquire a focused mind that does not get distracted? When you recite the Buddha’s name often, your mind will then reach the state of being focused and undistracted. If you do not recite the Buddha’s name, how can your mind not get distracted?
Q: Master, do you think there will be a third world war in the future, and when?
A: I do not know about this. You are still not sincere enough in reciting the Buddha’s name. If you were, you would not care whether there is going to be a third, fourth, fifth or sixth war. Why do you care?
Q: It is easy to harm small living beings when we work. What can we do?
A: As long as you do not kill people... if you kill small living beings unintentionally, you should recite the Buddha’s name for them.
Disciple: But my reciting of the Buddha’s name is not effective.
A: Your skill is poor because you are reciting a ghost. You are reciting your own ghost which is in your mind. Why is it that your recitation of the Buddha’s name is not effective? It is because you have a ghost in your mind.
Q: I cannot make the ghost go away. What should I do?
Venerable Master tapped the disciple’s head three times with his walking stick and said, “This ghost must go away quickly! Okay!”
Q: When we meditate, we are mindful of the Buddha of our nature. We say, “peaceful within, mind is still.” We need to be mindful of the Buddha of our nature. If we leave the Buddha of our nature, there is no other Buddha we can ask for help. The
Vajra Sutra says, “Those who seek me in form or sound walk down the wrong path and cannot see the Thus Come One. ” When we recite the Buddha’s name, are we being mindful of the Buddha of our nature or reciting the name of an external Buddha and Bodhisattva for their blessing? Is there an external Buddha?
A: This is a very good question! The dharma door of reciting Buddha’s name is the same whether you are mindful of the Buddha of your nature or an external Buddha. When you are mindful of the Buddha of your nature, you are actually being mindful of the external Buddhas and the Buddhas of the ten directions. When you are mindful of the Buddhas of the ten directions, you also being mindful of the Buddha of your nature. They are non-dual. It is two, yet not two; you cannot separate them. Because the light of Buddha is one, all Buddhas are on the same Path, and all lights mutually shine upon one another.
Q: When helping a terminally ill person to recite in the hospital, if hospital’s policy allows, must we recite the full eight hours?
A: All dharmas are not rigid and fixed. Eight hours are encompassed within a single thought, and a single thought does not go beyond eight hours. If you have skill, even a single recitation can help send the person to the Western World; if you don’t have such skill, it will not help even if you exhaust yourself and lose your voice while reciting.
To be continued