Author Topic: Fundamentals of the Pure Land cultivation method  (Read 2032 times)

Offline Optimus Prime

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Fundamentals of the Pure Land cultivation method
« on: February 08, 2010, 04:54:58 am »
The great Pure Land Patriarch, Master Yin Kuang left a letter that outlines the core principles behind practicing the Pure Land cultivation method of reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha (i.e., cultivating the method of mindfulness of the Buddha):

Letter 13
Open Letter to Cultivators

The following lines are simple and unadorned, yet their teachings are based
on the sutras. Anyone who acts accordingly will receive truly immense benefits.
(Patriarch Yin Kuang.)

I) The Pure Land method embraces people of all capacities, gathering in those of
high as well as low capacities. It is the great Dharma of the Tathagata, whereby He
provides an expedient enabling both sages and ordinary beings to achieve liberation
from Birth and Death and reach the stage of non-retrogression in this very lifetime.
Not to believe in and practice this sublime, special Dharma is truly regrettable,
a great pity indeed!

The main tenets of Pure Land are Faith, Vows and Practice:
Faith: You should believe that the Saha World is filled with the Eight Sufferings;
believe that the Western Pure Land is filled with immense joy; believe that as
ordinary beings full of evil karma, you cannot, realistically, rely on your own
strength (self-power) alone to eliminate delusion completely, realize the Truth and
escape Birth and Death in this very lifetime; believe that Amitabha Buddha has
made a profound and lofty Vow – any sentient being who recites His name [with
utmost faith and sincerity] seeking rebirth in His land will, at the time of death, be
received and guided to the Pure Land.
Vows: You should aspire to transcend this world and achieve rebirth in that
blissful Land as soon as possible.

Practice: You should practice Buddha Recitation in all earnestness and sincerity,
without a moment’s lapse, paying respect and reciting morning and evening before
your altar. You can establish an intensive or a leisurely schedule depending on your
own circumstances.

Outside of these sessions, you should constantly recite the Buddha’s name while
walking, standing, sitting, reclining or engaging in other actions that do not require
intense intellectual activity. When resting, you should recite silently, uttering only
the two words “Amitabha Buddha” to facilitate concentration. You should also
recite silently when not properly dressed or when doing household chores, bathing,
urinating or defecating, or when walking to and from unclean places. This silent
recitation brings the same benefits as reciting aloud. In the latter circumstances,
loud recitation is improper and could reflect disrespect. Whether reciting loudly
or softly or engaging in “diamond recitation” or silent recitation, you should be
attentive and keep each utterance clearly and distinctly in mind, the mouth reciting
clearly and distinctly and the ears hearing clearly and distinctly.
When you recite in this way, the mind is no longer chasing after external realms,
deluded thoughts cease and recitation gradually becomes pure and focussed – the
virtues accrued are thus immense.

II) Buddha Recitation practitioners should dedicate all virtues toward rebirth
in the Pure Land, whether they are earned through reciting sutras and mantras,
paying respect to the Buddhas, practicing repentance, rescuing victims of accidents
or disasters, or helping the needy. You should not seek the merits and blessings of
the human and celestial realms either in this lifetime or the next. If you have such
thoughts, you will lose the benefit of rebirth in the Pure Land and drown in the sea
of Birth and Death.

You should know that the more blessings you enjoy, the greater the evil karma
you are likely to create, making it exceedingly difficult to avoid the path of hells,
hungry ghosts and animality in the third lifetime. At that point, it will be more
difficult to recover the human form and hear the Pure Land Dharma of liberation
in one lifetime than to achieve rebirth as a celestial!

Sakyamuni Buddha taught the method of reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name,
seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land, in order to help sentient beings resolve
the problem of Birth and Death in this very lifetime. If you aspire to gain the
blessings of the celestial and human realms in the next lifetime, you are going
counter to the teachings of the Buddhas. It is like exchanging a priceless pearl for
a piece of candy – how truly regrettable!

III) Pure Land cultivators should not follow Zen meditation practices. This
is because most Zen followers fail to stress the issue of rebirth in the Pure Land
through Faith and Vows. Even if they practice Buddha Recitation, they merely
stress the koan “who is reciting the Buddha’s name?” seeking an Awakening. Pure
Land practitioners should recite Amitabha Buddha’s name for the sole purpose
of achieving rebirth in the Pure Land. Once having seen Amitabha Buddha, why
worry about not having experienced an Awakening?

In this Saha World, it may be possible to escape Birth and Death through
meditation if all delusive karma is eliminated. If, however, all delusive karma is not
eliminated, the Zen follower not only cannot rely on his own strength (self-power)
to achieve liberation, he cannot – lacking Faith and Vows – rely on the Buddha’s
power (other-power) to escape Birth and Death either. Unable to rely either on
self-power or on other-power, how can he escape the sufferings of this world?
You should know that even the Dharma Body Bodhisattvas [i.e., the higher level
Bodhisattvas] must rely on the power of the Buddhas – not to mention ordinary
beings such as ourselves, who are full of karmic obstructions. Who are we to keep
weighing the pros and cons of our own strength, while failing to seek the Buddhas’
help? Our words may be lofty, but upon reflection, the accompanying actions are
low and wanting! The difference between other-power and self-power is as great
as the heavens and the abyss! I hope fellow-cultivators will carefully examine and
forgive my straightforward words.

IV) From the age of twelve or thirteen, until they reach forty-eight or forty-nine,
women all have menstrual periods. Some people teach that women should not bow
or engage in Buddha and Sutra Recitation during those times. Such advice is certainly
not consonant with feelings or reason. The periods may last from a minimum
of two or three days to about six or seven. Buddha Recitation practitioners need
to cultivate without interruption, so how can they abandon their cultivation over a
little bit of natural discomfort? During those times, women should merely shorten
the bowing part of the sessions but keep to their regular schedule of Sutra and
Buddha Recitation. They should change their protective clothing and wash their
hands often, so that they do not finger the rosary, turn the pages of sutras or light
incense with dirty hands.

Within the Dharma, each and every method is perfect and unimpeded. Externalists,
on the other hand, grasp one-sidedly at theory and noumenon. Ordinary
people tend to believe their words, are unclear about the true teachings of Buddhism
and thus cannot saturate themselves with the benefits of the Dharma.

Source:  p59-61, Pure-land Zen, Zen Pure-land.  Letters from Patriarch Yin Kuang.  Translated by Master Th´ich Thien Tam, et al.  Forrest G. Smith, consulting editor


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