“THE SOLUTION: GENTLE HEARTS AND SERENE MINDS”
By Venerable Wu Lin
Respected Dharma Masters, respected practitioners and guests. I would like to again welcome you to the Singapore Buddhist Lodge and to express my continued gratitude at my great fortune, our great fortune, to all be here in this rarest of way places. One floor below us is a wondrous cultivation hall where chanting has continued daily for at least twelve hours a day. After its opening several months ago, we have spent a good part of our weekends Buddha Name Chanting. This cultivation hall is very special. The air feels different, the chanting sounds clearer, the cultivation is stronger.
This lecture hall is also very special for talks have been given here every day since May 18th when Master Chin Kung began his talks on the Flower Adornment Sutra. We come to the lecture hall to listen to the teachings. We come to the cultivation hall to practice those teachings. We need both.
In recent years, our world has become beset with adversities and our lives filled with increasing suffering and unhappiness. As time goes on, these adversities will become more and more severe, more and more frequent. Someone asked how the Great Compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas help all sentient beings to be liberated from pain. They do this by teaching us to overcome greed, anger and ignorance so that our minds will no longer be deluded, but awakened. By teaching us the Law of Cause and Effect.
To end our suffering, we first have to know what causes it. As human beings, we undergo the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. We suffer hardships, do not attain what we seek, are parted from our lived ones and find ourselves in the presence of those whom we resent or even hate. We are surrounded by all these with no apparent way of being truly free.
We need to understand that catalystic conditions or circumstances have to exist for a cause to generate an effect. By controlling these catalystic conditions, we can have some influence on our consequences. We need to practice good deeds during our lifetime to generate good karma. Then we will truly appreciate that living a happy and fulfilling life is the karmic result generated from a good cause and a good condition. And this is the way to attain liberation from suffering and to attain happiness.
Today, many of us feel the weight of our negative karma and we witness the unhappiness and suffering around us. They are caused by our selfish and erroneous behaviour. By our choosing to benefit ourselves at the expense of others. How do we remove this negative karma? How do we prevent further occurrences? By practicing what the Buddha taught. By dedicating ourselves to helping and benefiting society, by not protecting ourselves while harming others.
Most of us have the sub-conscious desire to control other people, animals, even inanimate objects. But by letting go of this attachment, we can be liberated. Awakened beings live their lives with great ease. They fulfil their responsibility of advising and educating sentient beings by explaining to them the true reality of life and the universe, the Law of Cause and Effect. By explaining that every cause, every thought, word and action has a result.
Whatever people decide to do, it is their choice, their consequence. We simply accord with the condition as we educate them and then leave the rest up to them. By doing this, our mind will remain serene, as it generates the concentration and thus the wisdom to effectively interact with people, matters and objects. The benefits that can be derived from such practice are infinite and boundless. Not only can our present suffering be resolved, but our negative karma accumulated over infinite life times can be eliminated as well.
Why then are we unable to realize the true benefit? Because we are obstructed by our own negative karma, unable to see what is right before our very eyes? We are constantly reminded by the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Constantly prompted by our reciting the sutra. Impelled by our daily chanting of the Buddha’s name and listening to dharma talks. Yet, we still are unable to truly comprehend the teachings, still unable to apply the principles in our daily living.
We cannot blame the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for not helping. The fact is they are trying to. We are not paying attention. We have a wondrous and rare chance to encounter Buddhism, which is about to slip by us. To be born as human beings who are able to hear the teachings is an unbelievably rare opportunity, not encountered for millions of years. To encounter the teachings is as rare as a bubble rising to the surface of a vast sea and breaking the surface of that sea within the one wreath of flowers that is floating upon it.
Allowing this to happen will be a tragic mistake that is entirely of our own making. To prevent this from happening, we need to reflect and feel remorse for our mistakes. This is a learning process that will enable us to overcome our afflictions and worldly habits and thus to remove our negative karma.
What is this negative karma? A part of it is these afflictions and worldly habits. How do we overcome these? By feeling deep regret for our mistakes and vowing to not commit them again. Daily practice will help to decrease our negative karma. It is to practice in the midst of society, not to be separated from it. We can choose any one of the eighty-four thousand methods that the Buddha taught. From all these infinite ways, he tells us that in this Dharma Ending Age, the Buddha Name Chanting Method is the most convenient, simple and effective. It can generate the positive effect and thus the strength needed to eradicate our afflictions and negative karma.
Some people have questioned why they do not yet feel the results of their daily chanting. It is not because the chanting method is ineffective. Some practitioners have achieved remarkable results and successfully eliminated their negative karma. If we are not feeling the results it is because our daily practice does not accord with the Buddha’s guidance, in other words, we are not doing what we are advised to do. Instead we are doing what we are advised not to do. For example, are we refraining from killing any living creature, refraining from stealing? Are we refraining from committing the misdeeds of stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, abusive language, bearing tales, seductive words, greed, anger and ignorance?
We would do well to follow the Buddha’s guidance. This will help to decrease our negative karma. Our chanting, our daily practice and our goals need to accord with the principles in the teachings. Our recitation of the sutra reminds us of the teachings and of our need to accord with them to correct our erroneous ways. Failure to do so will increase our negative karma.
Our goal is the mind of sincerity, purity, equality, compassion and awakening. Only with this mind will we be able to solve all problems. They cannot be solved by physical force, by war. They are solved with gentleness and loving-kindness toward all other beings, animate and inanimate. It is in our best interest to be rid of the desire to control, for it will only result in our committing further transgressions, thus increasing our negative karma. No one can truly control another. History provides us with many examples of countries that tried to use force to control another country; Hitler’s invasion of Europe, the Japanese invasion of China, the Russians in Afghanistan and the United States in Vietnam. All failed.
On the other hand, the work of Master Chin Kung in propagating Buddhism throughout the world, especially in China where he freely distributes tapes and books to teach people to practice good deeds has resulted in over twenty million people listening to the Buddha’s teachings. He did not have to spend much to gain this kind of result. Instead of those countries spending huge sums of money on warfare, they could have spent the money on caring for and supporting people who are suffering hardships. In this way, they would have peacefully and easily won them over. Or they could have used the money to educate their own citizens, to help them become self-sufficient; to pay more attention to internal needs instead of constantly interfering with external affairs.
Our every thought needs to be of benefiting all sentient beings. Not only in our behaviour should we never hurt any sentient beings, but also we should never give rise to a single hostile thought or say anything that can cause distress to others. If we can truly follow this teaching then in our daily lives no matter what we do, there will be great goodness, great gentleness. This is the way to truly influence people, with loving-kindness and compassion. Using physical force to try to solve problems will not only create enemies but will also generate the cause to be born into the hell realms. By practicing in accordance with the teachings, we will achieve results for in this way we will transform our minds, everything can be transformed by our minds. When we accord with the teachings, our thoughts will change; our actions will be proper and correct.
We would do well to let go of selfishness, to only have thoughts that benefit others. Instead, we are wrapped up in our own concerns, thinking only of protecting the interests of ourselves, our group or our country. This way of thinking has let to quarrels between people, feuds between families, wars between countries. It has let to massive damage on both sides; the tragic loss of lives, the excessive monetary cost, the disastrous destruction of land, the final destruction of friendships and peace and the grave consequences incurred due to the Law of Cause and Effect.
Our complete lack of concern for the plants, living and non-living creatures of our natural environment has resulted in the destruction of our environment. Ultimately, it is we ourselves who suffer from this negligence and lack of compassion. We are all one entity, one being, all interrelated closely with one another. Everything, including us arises from the coming together of causes, so to harm others is to harm ourselves.
Once we thoroughly comprehend this, we will have no more problems. Being overly concerned with our own interest and those of our group and country, is the root cause of all misfortunes and adversities. Taking care of this problem solves everything else. When we practice accordingly, with proper and caring behaviour, we will see an increase in our good karma and a decrease in our bad. In turn, our suffering will be reduced or eliminated. In other words, we will experience a favourable change in our circumstances.
When we give rise to one single bad thought of inequality, we turn a favourable situation into an unfavourable one. However, with one single good thought of equality, the Buddha realm will appear in that moment. When we give rise to one single thought of the Bodhisattva way, the Bodhisattvas realm will appear in that moment. Likewise, with one thought of greed, anger or ignorance, our daily lives will become unsettled and unmanageable. However, with one thought of purity, our lives will become harmonious and peaceful. Thus, the world in which we live will become the Western Pure Land.
Our life is short. However, we are unbelievably fortunate to have been born as humans, able to listen to the Buddha’s teaching, able to understand a little of its profound and incomparable truth. The Law of Cause and Effect is unchangeable, is permanent. We reap what we sow. By sowing good causes, we reap good consequences; sowing bad causes, we reap bad consequences. Even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot alter this reality.
However, with the causes that we have already planted, we can learn how to alter our catalyst condition before it comes into effect. Furthermore we need to refrain from committing any more bad deeds and to commit more god deeds, to distance ourselves from adverse conditions. In some cases this can reduce or eliminate the bad effect. In this way we can control our own consequences, transform our environment and change the direction in which we are currently headed.
We are learning of more and more prophecies that speak of upcoming disasters, even of the end of the world. These prophecies also tell us that these could neither be reduced or delayed or even prevented if we replaced our incorrect ways with those that are good, with those that benefit others and not ourselves. But if we do not turn back now, then it will be very hard to avoid them.
It is crucial that people understand that using physical force cannot solve problems, for even if we totally destroy a country, even if we detonate enough bombs to wipe out the face of the earth, it still will not solve our problems. We cannot waste this opportunity but need to cultivate in a sincere and diligent manner, to apply the principles with unselfish thought and behaviour. To be good, to be warm, to be sincere, to put all our efforts into helping others. In this way, all that is good will come our way.
Buddha Shakyamuni told us that there are three cataclysmic disasters and three lesser disasters in this world. The cataclysmic ones are comprised of fire, water and wind. The Flower Adornment Sutra tells us that disasters of fire can burn up to the First Meditation Heaven Realm, one of the twenty-eight levels of the heavens. This is the highest realm that a fire can reach. Fire is caused when ordinary people feel jealousy, feel hatred.
Since this First Meditation Heaven is still subject to fire disasters, we know that even these heavenly beings have not yet completely suppressed their anger. They have cultivated the Four Immeasurable Hearts of loving kindness, compassion, joy and letting go, but the cultivation of these four hearts still cannot effectively suppress their angers. Thus, they are still subject to fire disasters.
Beings in the Second Meditation Heaven Realm have thoroughly conquered their anger since they do not give rise to any thought of hatred. So, this heaven realm will not suffer from fire. However, it is still subject to flood disasters, which can submerge this heaven realm. Where does the flood come from? From our greed.
Having attained deeper concentration than those in the First and Second Heavens, the beings in the Third Meditation Heaven, will not suffer fires or floods. But they are still subject to wind disasters, which are caused by ignorance.
The Fourth Meditation Heaven Realm has no fire, flood or wind. Therefore, we call this heaven realm the good fortune heaven. The beings here possess the foremost fortune among the six realms.
If we want to avoid or to be rid of all disasters, we must sever our greed, anger, ignorance and arrogance. We should neither feel greed for worldly teaching nor for the Buddha’s teachings. For to feel the slightest trace will block us from severing the mind of greed. Will block us from eradicating the disasters, which are increasing in both frequency and severity. This is very important. These have been predicted by many ancient prophecies from respected religious leaders in many different countries.
Three thousand years ago Buddha Shakyamuni told us of the partial destruction of the world, which would be from war, epidemic and famine. He told of a war that would last for seven days and seven nights. Then there would be an epidemic that would last for seven months and seven days. Finally, a famine that would last for seven years, seven months and seven days. In the past, it was difficult to imagine how a war could last just seven days but have such devastating results. It was beyond imagination.
But when Master Chin Kung was in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on a trip to Japan, he realized that what the Buddha was describing was nuclear warfare. In Nagasaki, after the atomic explosion, many People survived the explosion itself, but were infected with atomic fallout and consequently many of them died during the first six months. This can be described as an epidemic.
The radiation sickness that results from atomic fallout is insidious. It starts by destroying one white cell and gradually progresses until there is massive cell destruction then uncontrolled bleeding and finally, death. Anyone, who was still alive at least seven months after the detonation would be considered as having survived the immediate effects of the bomb.
For years after the explosion, there were no trees, no plants, no grass. All was barren. The trees and grass started to grow approximately eights years after the detonation of the bombs. It was as the Buddha had told us; the ground would grow nothing for seven years, seven months, seven days. In this period, all will suffer from famine.
From this, we realize that the partial destruction of the world that was told to us by the Buddha is indeed that of nuclear warfare. Could it really happen? Many believe it is very likely. Access to nuclear weapons is becoming more widespread, more difficult to control. No one knows how long this tentative control can be maintained. Very honestly, the only way to attain real control is to encourage and help all to understand the need to prevent human made tragedies. If we observe the world situation objectively, then we will see that it is very difficult to avoid this probably disaster.
If the war were to happen now, half of the world’s population could be killed. How can we escape such a war? The day before he passed on to the Western Pure Land, Master Chin Kung’s teacher, Mr Bing-Nan Lee told his students, that this world was going to experience a significant disaster. Even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Heavenly beings would not be able to help. He urged his students that the only way to free themselves would be to seek birth into the Pure Land. To assure this, we need to stop all bad thoughts, speech and behaviour.
We need to accumulate only good deeds. How? By ceasing all selfish ideas, by constantly thinking of how to benefit all others, by letting go of our own interest for the sake of others. This will stop our bad deeds and help us to accumulate only good ones. But, if our every thought is only of ourselves, it will be very difficult for us to avoid this approaching disaster.
Why do we persist in our anger, our hatred, our fighting? Why do we have conflicts, the inability to tolerate others? Why do we seem so determined to keep heading towards the brink? Selfishness. Wrong viewpoints. The inability to truly care for others. The inability to truly understand that everything arises from our minds. The inability to understand that every thought we have is instantly felt throughout the entire universe.
We need to let go of our selfishness and comprehend that the whole universe is our home and that we are one with the universe. We have the same self-nature as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The difference between them and we is that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas comprehend this. All sentient beings have been our past parents. All sentient beings will be future Buddhas. Understanding this, how can we not be respectful to all beings? How can we possibly harm them?
We originally had this comprehension, this great broad mindedness. Then why are we so narrow minded now? We are deluded, unable to see through our false beliefs and wrong viewpoints. Our innate wisdom and abilities are thus temporarily lost to us. However, if we can break through this delusion, then we will be able to uncover this wisdom for it is not permanently lost. In the Flower Adornment Sutra, we can see the broad-mindedness of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All of the infinite and countless numbers of beings at the assembly who gathered to hear this unsurpassed teaching are one.
If we could just understand this true reality and expand our mind, then we too would recognize that no matter what race, what religion, what culture, we are all one. With this wisdom; discrimination, misunderstanding and conflict among beings would naturally diminish. First, man made tragedies would be avoided. Then what we think of as natural tragedies would likewise dissolve.
The environment changes with our minds. When our minds are serene and compassionate, our living environment will become tranquil and peaceful. As we learn of the magnificence of the Western Pure Land from the Infinite Life Sutra, we might ask where this magnificence and adornment come from? The sutras tell us that only the most virtuous people dwell there. Thus, the wonderful environment is a reflection of their virtues, their minds.
Today our living environment is being polluted and destroyed. Some say that the earth is rapidly becoming unsuitable for living. How did this happen? It is the result of the bad intentions and deeds of we human beings. And this is the real reason for what is happening today. To save our world, we need to use great wisdom to help those who are deluded to become awakened. How? Through education. All the great sages have used education to overcome ignorance. For example, Buddha Shakyamuni taught for forty-nine years and Confucius taught for his entire lifetime.
But how can we reach enough people to change what is about to happen? High technology. Once we begin to understand and awaken, we can use high technology to bring our message to everyone. It is not too late to save our world. If all the worldwide television companies would broadcast two hours of the teaching everyday, in one year the earth could return to normal. The disasters would naturally cease. The environment is a reflection of our mind, so if there are more people who are thinking of others of saving our world, of peace, then it will happen.
There are areas around the world where broadcasting has already begun. In Taiwan, there are three to four hours of lectures broadcast daily. In large areas of North and Central America including Canada, the US, Mexico and Panama, there is at least one hour of lectures broadcast daily. In Macao and Hawaii, there are two lectures weekly. If more people watch, the stations will increase the broadcasting time and hopefully the languages of the lectures as well. This needs to be done quickly to urge people to change for the better. In this way, we can help to save our world.
The most pressing need is to set up Internet locations. From our Singapore Way Place there are at least two hours of lectures broadcast daily, both in Chinese and in English. People around the world, who have access to a computer, are able to receive a live transmission. We use the internet to communicate with each other and can answer questions during the Morning Talks that are broadcast five days a week. Since we use high technology do we really need to build any way places? Yes, for two reasons. One is to train new lecturers; the other is to provide a place for people to practice together.
In this way, people around the world can listen to the lectures. But we also need to practice, to use the Buddha Name Chanting Method. The Buddha tells us that for our times, the primary way to be assured of success in cultivation is to rely on this method. What do we chant? “Namo Amituofo”. “Namo” means to turn back, to take refuge. This does not mean that we take refuge with the Dharma Master but rather that we return and rely. “Amituofo”, means infinite and awakening. Thus, “Namo Amituofo” means to turn back and rely upon the infinite awakening.
What are the benefits of Buddha name chanting? Upon what principles is it based? The Buddha tells us that “everything arises from our minds”. In other words, the environment is a reflection of our thoughts. Not yet having become Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, we still have discriminating thoughts, wandering thoughts, afflictions, attachments. Still have greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance. The increase of these thoughts is what has caused the increase in the frequency and severity of today’s problems. From disagreements in our family to discord in our country to chaos unimaginable chaos in our world if nothing is done to neutralize them.
How? Chanting “Amituofo” enables us to restore our minds to purity, equality, awakening and peace. When our minds are at peace, the environment will in turn reflect serenity and tranquillity. Our thoughts create waves. In the sixties, westerners referred to these as “Vibrations”. What we did not understand was the breadth that these “Vibes” had. We thought of them simply on an interpersonal level. But the strength from this kind of thought wave is amazing, able to neutralize the turbulent thought waves even from other’s greed, anger, ignorance and arrogance.
The principle and basis of Buddha name chanting are these thought waves. The Buddha understood this and told of them three thousand years ago. The purpose is to achieve so much more than our individual birth into the Western Pure Land. Buddha Shakyamuni knew and understood how great our present need would be. And he taught how to change the fate of the world. Not for himself, but for us.
Understanding the need for Buddha name chanting, how do we proceed? We can gather in a Chanting Hall where dharma masters using musical instruments lead the group. As we would imagine, the effect from everyone chanting together harmoniously is the most productive. But if time or the lack of a good chanting hall make this difficult, then we can simply turn on the chanting machine in our own home and chant along with it.
When working, concentrate on working. When finished, immediately start chanting. As wandering thoughts arise; pay no attention to them. Upon giving rise to the first wandering thought, immediately replace the second thought with “Amituofo”. If wandering thoughts again rise, then again replace the thought with “Amituofo”. Do this continuously until every thought is of mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha.
One does not have to be a Buddhist to receive the benefits from chanting. At the Dallas Buddhist Association in the US, several neighbourhood children have come and asked for chanting machines. A psychologist who came to a seven-day retreat said that he played the chanting machine all day in his office because his clients said they felt calmer while listening to it.
When my mother was in the hospital for an operation for cancer we gave a chanting machine and beads to one of the nurses, a devout Christian, who had told us that she liked to hear the chanting when she came into the room. When my mother went back three months later for a follow up visit, the nurse who heard we were back, found me and said that she and her husband listened to the chanting every night because it was so calming.
We never know when someone will benefit from chanting. My sister who does not listen to it told me of an airplane trip she had recently taken. They had entered an area of strong turbulence and the plane was experiencing unusually violent movements. My sister, who has travelled a great deal, was being buffeted like everyone else. Suddenly she remembered “Amituofo, Amituofo, Amituofo”.
In addition to chanting, there are other teaching aids to help us in our mindfulness. When we first enter the Cultivation Hall to join in the group chanting, we will see images of one Buddha and two Bodhisattvas. In a Pure Land way place, they will be Buddha Amitabha, Great Compassion Bodhisattva and Great Strength Bodhisattva. Buddha Amitabha symbolizes our original self-nature. Great Compassion Bodhisattva symbolizes compassion. Great Strength Bodhisattva symbolizes wisdom. Compassion and wisdom are the two virtues for us to cultivate to uncover our original self-nature, reminding us to be compassionate towards others, to be rational and not emotional, to be awakened.
One the Buddha table, we will see several objects. Again, they are teaching aids not objects of worship. For Buddhism is not a religion but an education. A cup of water symbolizes the teachings. The clear water symbolizes the principle that our mind needs to be as pure as the water, to be void of greed, anger and ignorance. It is calm without a single ripple indicating that we interact with people and matters with the serene and non-discriminating mind of equality. Furthermore, it is pure and calm, reflecting clearly and thoroughly just as we would see everything around us in a mirror.
Flowers symbolize the cause as the blossom result in the bearing of fruit, which is also seen frequently on the Buddha Table. The fruit serves to remind us that there are consequences from our every thought, word and action.
Lamps, which have replaced candles symbolize wisdom and brightness illuminating the darkness of our ignorance. Incense symbolizes self-discipline and deep concentration as well as the giving of ourselves to benefit others. Chanting enables us to suppress our afflictions and to neutralize the negative vibrations from our thoughts.
Generally early in our practice, we begin to generate the vows to accomplish our goals. Every Buddha, every Bodhisattva when they start to cultivate, generates great vows. No matter what vows they make, they cannot surpass the Four Great Vows of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
1. Sentient beings are innumerable, I vow to help them all,
2. Afflictions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them all,
3. Ways to practice are boundless, I vow to master them all and
4. Enlightenment is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it.
We start with the first vow, then proceed to the second, etc. In other words, before attaining unsurpassable Enlightenment, we need to master the ways of practice. Before we master the ways of practice, we need to end afflictions. And before beginning to end afflictions, we need to vow to help all sentient beings. These vows are profound and vast. Bodhisattvas have already fulfilled these Four Vows. While, we may have generated the four great vows but we probably have not yet fulfilled any of them.
Our viewpoints, our thoughts have to accord with the great vows. The second way to end all afflictions accords with the original vow of all Buddhas. If we have not cut off our afflictions then how can we help all sentient beings? Only when we succeed in cutting off our afflictions, can we transcend the ten realms.
Only after we have cut off our afflictions, can we learn different methods. To be virtuous is not enough; we also need to have knowledge, intelligence and wisdom because we will have to help all kinds of different species, different sentient beings. If we want to gain perfect wisdom and undefeated eloquence, we will need to be well versed in countless methods.
If we cannot reach the highest level to become a Buddha, we cannot help all sentient beings. We can only help those, whose level is lower than ours. Only when we reach the state of the Buddha, the state of perfect complete enlightenment, will we possess the ability to help all sentient beings.
So, the first vow is our original vow while the following three help us achieve the first. To generate the vows but not cultivate to meet them will be futile. Cultivation and vows compliment each other. As long as we work diligently, never regress and generate the vow to reach the state of the Buddha, we will attain the dharma joy.
In our past lives, too innumerable to count, we have indulged our bad habits. Today Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have taught us how to cut off these bad habits. But this is so difficult for us to do. Most of us think it is difficult to break the habits of a lifetime. But, actually we need to break the habits of infinite lifetimes. Remember that this is a process. Once we break through our bad habits, our cultivation will become easier and smoother; then we can fulfil our vows. Then we can go to the Western Pure Land and from there, we can help all sentient beings.
Recently some people came to Master Chin King and questioned how they could be confident that they would go to the Pure Land. He asked them if they were sure they could go in this lifetime. They honestly shook their heads and said no. Master Chin Kung could not say either, because there are two requirements to do so. The first is to have unwavering belief and vows. The second is to let go of all desires, good or bad. We cannot go to the Pure Land if we have not met these requirements. If we have net yet let go.
We cannot let go because we are still clinging to something. Find it. We must find it! If we cannot, then even if we are born into the highest level of heaven, where we will live through eighty thousand cycles of creation, existence, and complete annihilation of the world, we will still be mired, still be lost in the cycle of birth and death. What can we do? Find out what we are clinging to and LET GO! Let go of all attachments. Let go of all feelings of gain and loss. Let go of discriminating and wandering thoughts. Let go of the thought of how others treat us. Let go of the thought of those that owe us, of those we owe.
Only with purity of mind can we let go and only then can we definitely go the Pure Land. If we cannot do this, then we are truly lost of our vows, our beliefs are not sincere enough. No matter how many times we chant “Amituofo”, we will be unable to go to the Pure Land. For we are still clinging to one of the five desires of wealth, lust, fame, food or drink and sleep. Still discriminating between what we perceive as right or wrong. Greed for these will lead us into the downward spiral of the three bad realms. If we still have these then even if Buddha Amitabha came with all the Bodhisattvas to pull us to the Western Pure Land, we could not go.
There are many examples of people who were able to sever their greed, able to let go. A well-known one is that of Master Ying Ke, a monk who broke many rules. But he had one good quality. He knew that he had committed many bad deeds and that after his death we would go the hell realms. He asked his Dharma brothers what he could do. They showed a biography of people who had been born into the Western Pure Land.
Deeply moved by the accounts and feeling remorseful he sought seclusion in his room. He chanted continuously for three days and nights, without food, water or sleep. With deep sincerity of mind, he let go of everything and he received a response from Buddha Amitabha who told him that he still had ten more years to live. Buddha Amitabha told him to cultivate diligently for ten years and then he would come back to escort Master Ying Ke to the Pure Land. But the Master said, “I have many weaknesses and bad habits and am unable to resist temptation, I cannot wait ten more years so I wish to give them up and go with you now.” After three days, Buddha Amitabha came back to escort him to the Pure Land.
This example proved what was stated in the Amitabha Sutra, that is we chant sincerely and diligently from one to seven days, we could definitely achieve. The Pure Land method is easy to practice so this is not the problem. The problem is whether we truly want to go. If we hung a poster at the entrance to the chanting all that said, “After chanting for three days, you will go the Western Pure Land”, no one would come to the chanting hall because they would think that they would die in three days. And very few of us are ready to leave this world. And this is the main reason we do not go to the Pure Land.
The Buddha says very clearly in the sutra that we stay in the cultivation hall to attain “One Mind Undisturbed”, which consists of three main levels, the lowest of which is Constant Mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha. Reaching at least this level, we can go to the Pure Land. When we go we can be born into one of these three levels. Accomplishment of the top level enables us to decide when we will go the Pure Land. At that time we will go without any illness and may be in a standing or sitting position. Accomplishment of the middle level enables us to know when we will go to the Pure Land a few months in advance. Again, we may leave this world in a standing or a sitting position. In the lower level, we will know several days in advance of our death, when we will leave but we may become ill.
When some fellow practitioners asked Master Chin Kung what level his teacher, Mr. Lee had reached, he told them that he knew Mr. Lee had at least reached the top level of Conduct Mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha because he was able to decide when he would be born into the Pure Land. These levels are attainable by everyone, the question is whether we are wiling to practice. Once we are, we can achieve this level. If we reach Constant Mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha, can we be born into the Pure Land? Yes, everyone can.
Many people were born into the Western Pure Land after a few years of Buddha Name Chanting. When this happens does this mean that their life expectancy has been reached? No, it means that they had reached the state of purity of mind that enabled them to be born into the Pure Land and they had decided to go, not to wait. Most people who can go earlier choose not to remain in this world any longer, not to continue suffering. Those who choose to wait still have affinities with beings in this world, with those who accept and follow their guidance. But if, for example, the practitioner is giving lectures and no one in the audience is sincerely following his or her guidance, then there is no reason to stay.
This was the case of Mr. Lee, for although his audience was large, the few who had been following his guidance, were already capable of achievement, so he was able to leave. If just one had been following his teaching and still needed guidance, then he could not have gone. Since their first of the great four vows is to help all sentient beings, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will never abandon anyone, even if that being has harmed, slandered or even murdered them.
In ancient times way places had eight hours of cultivation and eight hours of learning. Our way place, here in Singapore, has two hours of lectures and twelve hours of Buddha Name Chanting every day. But we have not yet attained improvement in our cultivation because we have not yet attained the perfect understanding and this is why we cannot let go. Only when we have truly seen through to the true reality will we be able to let go.
Today, we still have obstacles due to this lack of understanding. Why can we not let go? We are still clinging to something. Because of this clinging, we are still mired, still lost in the cycle of birth and death, still lost in the ten realms of existence. We need to know that if we cannot transcend the cycle of birth and death, most of our time will be spent in the three bad realms. Why are we born into the animal realm? Because we were ignorant. Greed is the cause of the karma that results in our being born into the hungry ghost realm. And anger is the cause of our being born into the hell realm.
With enough good karma, we can go to the highest heavenly realm of Neither Thought nor Non-thought, where the beings have a life span of eighty thousand eons. But we also go the hell realms, where the beings have a life span of infinite eons. When compared to eighty thousand eons, the time spent in the hell realms is unimaginably long. And this is why Master Ying Ke was so frightened and wanted to leave this world just as soon as he could. When we consider the time spent in this world and the time spent in the other realms, our time here is as a flash of lighting, a drop of dew. It is inconsequential.
The cycle of birth and death is what is important, the major problem in front of us that we continually ignore. Even though Buddhas and Bodhisattvas try so hard to teach us the truth, we do not listen. We do not believe. We do not accept. So although these awakened beings try to help us, we still doubt, we reject their guidance. When will we truly be able to believe and accept this teaching? When we have listened for many year, then we will suddenly awaken.
Those who can awaken after one lecture are exceptional. They must be a manifestation of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. Most of us have to listen to a lecture and practice every day. After we listen to the lectures, contemplate the meanings and follow the teachings accordingly we will be able to achieve. But today, where can we find a teacher who can give us eight hours a day of lectures? We cannot. But what we can do is listen to one video or cassette tape several times every day. Do not listen to different tapes because by the time we finish the last tape we will have forgotten what the first tape said. Focus on only one. If we can continue to do this then after three years we will be able to attain some level of concentration, some degree of enlightenment.
After we listen to the lectures and truly understand the teaching then we will be able to apply the principles to our daily lives. If our understanding and cultivation can accord with the Buddhas teachings then we will know how to permanently transcend the cycle of birth and death as well as the ten realms. The safest method to accomplish this is to seek birth into the Western Pure Land.
At breakfast one morning Fa Zhao the Fourth Patriarch of the Pure Land School looked into his bowl and saw an image. He asked his fellow monks about what he saw and they told him it was the Five Platform (Wu Tai) Mountain Way Place of Manjushri Bodhisattva. He then started to search for the place he had seen. When he found it, he joined ten thousand other beings who listened to a Dharma talk by Manjushri Bodhisattva. He then asked the Bodhisattva for guidance, “Since we are entering the Dharma Ending Age, which method is the most suitable for human beings?” Manjushri Bodhisattva answered that it was the Pure Land method. When the Fourth Patriarch asked how to practice this method, Manjushri Bodhisattva taught him to chant “Amituofo”. After the Fourth Patriarch left the way place, he looked back to see it one more time, but it was gone. Then he understood that Manjushri Bodhisattva had come to teach him the most suitable method for our Dharma Ending Age.
Once we can go the Pure Land and meet Buddha Amitabha, we can tell him that we wish to go back to our world to help sentient beings. With his help we will never again be deluded or lost in the six realms. But, if we do not to the Pure Land to meet Buddha Amitabha then we will remain deluded. It is crucial that we understand this.
Master Chin Kung has been giving lectures for forty years. Every week he gave at least three talks. Now that he is here in Singapore he is giving a lecture every day. From age forty-five to over fifty, he spoke at least thirty hours every week. Who benefited the most? He did! He did not miss one lecture while the audience missed many. It is very difficult to cut off our bad habits. He spoke almost every day and urged the audience and thus himself to correct all bad habits. He has been giving dharma talks continuously for forty years; this is why he can cut off his bad habits. This is why he can let go.
Fellow practitioners and guests, please listen carefully. The Law of Cause and Effect is unchangeable, immutable. Even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot alter it. Our greed, anger, ignorance and arrogance have resulted in disasters that are increasing in both frequency and severity and are approaching a scale that is impossible for us to imagine.
Everything arises from our mind. But just as we have given rise to the cause of this approaching disaster, we can also give rise to another, greater cause that can maybe reduce or possibly even prevent it from happening. We must replace thoughts of self with thoughts of all others. We must give up feelings of pride, the desires for fame and wealth. We must let go of thoughts of trying to control others. Let go of narrow-mindedness and biased viewpoints. Let go of criticizing, of blaming, of gossiping. Let go of the thought of those who owe us, of those we owe. We must let go!
Only be letting go can we return to purity and tranquillity. Only in this way, will our hearts become gentle, our minds become serene, as we give rise to the wisdom to accord with all beings, animate and inanimate. For only with gentle hearts and serene minds will we be able to solve our problems. The goodness that we can bring to others by using our loving-kindness and compassion is infinite, is boundless. And this is our best, our only way to bring true peace to our world. Not for ourselves but for the sake of all sentient beings.
THE TEN RECITATION METHOD
The Ten-Recitation method is a simple, convenient, effective way to practice Buddha Name Recitation. It is especially suitable for those who find little time in the day for cultivation. Practicing this method helps us to regain mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha and brings us peace and clarity in the present moment.
The practice begins first thing in the morning when we wake up. We sit up straight and clearly recite “Namo Amitabha’ ten times with an undisturbed mind, aloud or silently to ourselves. We repeat this process eight more times for the rest of the day. Altogether, we do one round of ten recitations, nine times a day, every day as follows:
1. Upon waking up
2. Before starting breakfast
3. After finishing breakfast
4. Before work
5. Before starting lunch
6. After finishing lunch
7. Before starting dinner
8. After finishing dinner
9. At bedtime
Altogether, this method is practiced nine times daily. The key is regularity; disruption of this practice will reduce its effectiveness. Without interruption, the cultivator will soon feel an increase in his/her purity of mind and wisdom.
Diligent practice of the Ten-Recitation Method, together with unwavering belief and vows, can ensure fulfilment of our wish to reach the Western Pure Land of Infinite Light. We hope everyone will practice accordingly.
(The Collected Works of Venerable Master Chin Kung)