A talk by Bhikshu Jin Fan on Dec. 21, 2009 in Buddha Hall at the CTTB
Translated into English by Joseph Zhu, 12th grader, and Michael Lu,
7th grader at Developing Virtue Secondary School
Today is the second day of the two weeks Amitabha Session; usually the first three days are the most difficult during the session. Therefore, tonight I Jin Fan will tie dharma affinities with everyone. First, I will tell a story; this is not a story about the Pure Land but actually is a story in the Chan School, and the purpose is to let everyone relax.
There was a Chan Master called Ju Zhi who had not obtained enlightened yet. One day, there was a Bhikshuni who came to this dharma master's monastery without appointment. It was raining at that time so she was wearing a straw hat on her head when she came to the Chan Hall to meet the Chan Master, and circumambulated the master three times. Then she asked the Chan Master, "If you can answer my questions correctly then I will take off my hat to show respect." This meant that she had come to make trouble.
This Bhikshuni asked the question to the Chan Master three times, but he could not reply so he felt very ashamed. At that time, it was getting dark and already sunset, so the Chan Master politely asked the Bhikshuni if she would stay there for the night. This Bhikshuni said once again to the Chan Master, "If you can answer my question correctly then I will stay." Nevertheless, the Chan Master did not know how to answer her question, therefore he felt very brooding afterwards.
Some time later there was a dharma master who was from Hang Zhou. This dharma master was called Heavenly Dragon Chan Master; he came around to Ju Zhi Master's temple. Ju Zhi Master told this Chan Master what the Bhikshuni had asked him and wanted to know if he were to encounter this situation, what he would do. All this Chan Master did was to stick up one of his fingers. When Ju Zhi Master saw this, he became enlightened right at that moment. After this case, whenever somebody requested the dharma with dharma master Ju Zhi, then all he would do was to raise one of his fingers and they would all understand what the Chan Master meant.
This dharma master Ju Zhi had a disciple who was a Shramanera. This little disciple followed his teacher's way of teaching others. When his master was not at the temple and somebody came and requested the dharma, then all he would do would be to just stick up his finger, representing his master. Once his master found out, he did not do anything. Then one day, his master called him, and then asked him, "Do you understand the Buddha dharma?" And the little Shramanera said, "Yes, I understand." And the Chan Master Ju Zhi asked again, "What is the Buddha?" The Shramanera automatically stuck up his finger without thinking and answered to his master's question. The Chan Master used a pair of scissors to cut off the Shramanera's finger and the Shramanera cried out since he was full of pain. Immediately, the Chan Master asked again, "What is the Buddha?" The Shramanera forgot his pain and stuck up his finger, but this time he saw his finger was not there, so he became enlightened.
In the Chan School, everybody's experience is different, so consequently there are different ways of becoming enlightened. That is why the Venerable Master remarked, "Learning from the Venerable Master Xu Yun is not learning how he broke his drinking cup and became enlightened!" There probably is another way of becoming enlightened instead of getting your finger cut off. You might ask if there another way not to have your finger cut off; well there is, and it is called the Pure Land Dharma Door. If you recite Na Mo Amitabha, then you will be reborn in the Pure Land. In the Pure Land, once the lotus flower blooms and you see the Buddha, then you will attain the dharma patience of the unproducing, and the length of your life will be limitless, and also when the lotus flower opens, you will not come back to the realms, and you will be like Maitreya Bodhisattva who is waiting to become a Buddha during this life. So in this way, if you practice the Pure Land Dharma Door, you will become a Buddha and also your finger will not be cut off.
The goal of cultivating is that you want to leave birth and death, end suffering and attain bliss, and attain ultimate liberation. So Shakyamuni Buddha said that there are Eighty-four thousands different kinds of dharma doors, every dharma door can let us leave birth and death, end suffering and attain bliss. But there are some that are difficult, yet some are easy. So in Shi Zhu Po Sha Lun, there are two kinds of dharma doors, which are the kind that is hard to practice and the kind that is easy to practice.
An example could be that if you want to go somewhere, there are different ways to get there, some are longer but some are shorter. For example, there was a dharma master called Fa Xian who went to India to bring back some sutras. Twenty some people accompanied him. During ancient times, the simplest way of traveling was by foot. There were deserts, high mountains, racing streams, and freezing places so some people couldn't bear it all the way and went back. Some people died of thirst and from hunger, some fell off from the high mountains and died and some people froze to death so there were lots of people who died and only Fa San Shr made it to India.
Some time later, Dharma Master Fa Xian spotted an India monastery, and on an offering table there was a fan that was made in China so he realized that some businessmen from China had also come to India. On the journey back, he took a boat instead of walking all the way back to China, and avoided the dangers on foot. Even though there were some hurricanes but all and all, it was still more successful and faster than the journey by walking on foot. This can be an example saying that in cultivating there are different paths but when we do not know easy and simple dharma door, then we might choose the path that is difficult to cultivate. This is like Dharma Master Fa Xian, who risked his life and went on foot to India, but in the end he found out that if he went on boat he would still arrive at China.
One of the easiest Dharma Doors is the Pure Land Dharma Door, also called reciting the Buddha's Name Dharma Door. If we want to recite the Buddha's name, we have to know the method of it. We all heard from dharma masters that there are four kinds of reciting the Buddha or Amitabha's name. A lot of recent dharma masters, including Ming Dynasty's dharma master Ou Yi recommend just reciting the Buddha's name because it is the most powerful, the easiest and the most complete dharma door. If you want to cultivate this dharma door, you need to take three steps in order to be reborn in the Pure Land, and those are faith, vow and practice. Every dharma door has a way of cultivating, so we can practice according to it. We all know that when we recite the Buddha name we sometimes can't get the hang of it. If it is difficult to recite the Buddha name, then we might not be able to reborn in the Pure Land. That is an example of a stone or wood, but you can't get fire out of them, so if you do not use the proper way to get fire out of them you might break the stone and shred the wood into stripes but you still can't get any fire.
So let's talk about faith, vow and practicing the other way. Practicing is to uphold the Buddha's name Na Mo Amitabha, these six powerful words. We should follow Great Master Lian Chi's teachings, "Recite the Buddha's name honestly, and don't change the topic!" This vow is divided into two important points; those are that we have to get tired of this Saha World and we also have to have upper faith that we can be reborn in the Pure Land. Dharma master Ou Yi said that if you ultimately get tired of this world and ultimately want to be reborn in the Pure Land, then it will have effect. But if we have just the tiniest wanting of the Saha World, then having rebirth in the Pure Land will be dangerously difficult. So you should not think, oh this year's Amitabha Session in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas went well, I want to continue reciting next year because if you have this thought then you have not gotten tired of this world enough. I hope next year that you will already be in the Pure Land.
The third and last thing to have is faith. As we all know, it is not easy to have faith in the Pure Land. In the Pure Land Dharma Door it is easy to practice but hard to have faith. I want to recommend to everyone, if you have doubt in this dharma door, you should read Tian Tai Zhi Zhe Master's talk about the ten kinds of confusion on the Pure Land. In it, Zhi Zhe master wrote about this dharma door very precisely and gave a lot of examples and it is easy to understand. We do not have enough time, so I am going to give an example. There is one time that somebody asked that from a long time till now we have created much evil karma, but at the last moment of life, if we recite the Buddha's name ten times, then we can be reborn in the Pure Land. Why is this? Great Master Zhi Zhe said an example that if a room had darkness for one thousand years and suddenly light shined in the room, would the light penetrate the darkness or would the darkness still be there due to ages of accumulating. The answer is the light will penetrate the darkness and the room will fill with light. Also reciting the Buddha name is just like a ray of light and all the darkness of evil karma that was caused from limitless eons until now will be destroyed. So the sutra says that reciting the Buddha's name once will eliminate eighty billion karmic offenses.
Reciting the Buddha's name is a kind of dharma door where ten thousand people recites, ten thousand people goes which represents everybody recites, everybody can be reborn in the Pure Land. If we recite the Buddha's name, then in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, there will be a lotus flower, and once you are reborn there, the lotus flower will bloom, and you will continue cultivating until you reach Buddhahood in the same life. In order to encourage himself, Patriarch Yin Guang put up the words "reciting the Buddha's name and you bring death with you" in the Dining Hall. Patriarch Yin Guang recited the Buddha's name to wait for the coming of his death, he is so at ease! So you might think that when I get old then I will start reciting the Buddha's name, but you don't know when death will come. When the time comes for you to die, you can't recite anymore. You should be reciting everyday so once you are familiar with this then when you face death and it is the last moment of your life, you will understand where you would be going in the future and not be frightened. Because when you arrived to this world, you did not understand how you came, but now we know how to recite the Buddha's name and to not be confused again. So we should strike up our spirits, and continue upholding the Buddha's name vigorously. Namo Amitabha!