Concentration or Meditation?

When we focus on something we are concentrating, directing our attention towards a specific object or activity. While this act of focusing will help us learn how to better guide and control our thoughts, worldly concentration is not meditation.

Meditation is our single-minded focus on controlling our thoughts with a more spiritual goal in mind. Our Buddhist practice has the ultimate goal of supreme, perfect enlightenment. For example, as we chant "Amituofo" our goal is to become one with Amitabha Buddha so we will be reborn in his pure land and become a Buddha in one lifetime.

As we meditate, we need to be acutely aware of our purpose. I once received a copy of an email that was being sent to someone else. The writer of the email was asking the leader of the Buddhist group he attended what the purpose of their meditation was. Since the person had been studying Buddhism for some time, this question surprised and then saddened me.

As Buddhists, we do not meditate merely to relax or feel good. That's straying into the sensory-enjoyment area.

Feeling less stressed and more content after our meditation is a side-effect of our committed practice. What will make us really happy in our meditation is the understanding that we have taken one tiny step forward on the path and are, thus, one tiny step closer to enlightenment.



Dharmakara's Aspiration



May my wisdom be as vast and deep as the sea.

May my mind be pure and void of impurities and afflictions.

I vow to transcend numberless doors of the realms of miserable existence, and quickly reach the other shore of Ultimate Enlightenment.

The poisons of greed, anger and ignorance will forever disappear, with the power of Samadhi I will end all delusions and faults.

Like the past incalculable Buddhas, may I become a great teacher to all living beings in the nine realms, and liberate everyone in every world from the myriad miseries of birth, old age, sickness and death.

I will constantly practice the Six Paramitas of giving, precepts, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom.

For those undelivered sentient beings let them be crossed over, for those already delivered, let them attain Buddhahood.

I would rather firmly and gallantly seek the proper enlightenment, than make offerings as boundless as Ganges sands to the sages.

I wish to firmly remain in Samadhi, and constantly emit light to shine on all.

I vow to attain a vast and pure land, and make it’s supreme adornment peerless.

For those beings amidst the wheel of six realms, I wish that they can quickly obtain rebirth in my land and enjoy the bliss.

I aspire to constantly employ compassion to help sentient beings, and to cross over countless beings in misery.

The power of my vow and determination is resolute,
only the Buddha’s unsurpassed wisdom can perceive them.

Even amidst all kinds of sufferings my vow will never regress.

~ Based on the Infinite Life Sutra, translator unknown




The Monk Dharmakara


In the presence of Lokesvararaja, a Buddha of the ancient past, the monk Dharmakara, after witnessing the suffering of sentient beings, spent five eons studying all the Buddha lands.

Dharmakara then made forty-eight vows, the fulfillment of which would create the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. He declared that he would not attain Buddhahood unless his vows for a perfect Pure Land, where all beings would advance along the Buddhist path and never again fall back into the cycle of rebirth, were accom­plished.

Once his vows were accomplished, the monk Dharmakara became Amitabha Buddha. He is now speaking the Dharma in his Pure Land and helping all who are truly sincere in their personal vows to be reborn there.



Pure Land Monastics, Part Four

Question: Please could you write about the daily practice as a monastic. My background was mainly in Theravada Buddhism and I am interested to know what role mindfulness meditation might play in Pure Land practice. I am curious if quiet vipassana type meditation is part of Pure Land practice.

Response: The goal in Pure Land practice is to attain the state in which we always hold the thought of Amitabha Buddha in our minds. So in our practice we either just chant "Amituofo" or we combine this with chanting a sutra. Master Chin Kung recommends that we chant the Infinite Life Sutra, one of the primary Pure Land sutras, because it explains causality and rebirth in the Pure Land, and will build our confidence in the Pure Land method.

To hold "Amituofo" in our mind does not mean we do not think of anything else. It means that in whatever we are doing the thought "Amituofo" is always present.

We do not practice other types of meditation because to succeed in being reborn in the Pure Land, we need to excel in one method. We simply do not have enough time to spend some of it on another method. Practicing two methods would be like trying to get somewhere while taking two different routes.

Once we are in the Pure Land and no longer caught in the cycle of rebirth, we will have all the time we need to learn and practice other methods.



The Nature of Our World

What is real? Important? Lasting?

What seemed so intensely important when we were children, teenagers, and young adults is long forgotten. Friends we couldn't bear to be separated from are now never thought of. Places we wanted to be, experiences we wanted to have—gone. The kind of lives we lived as children are no longer.

All the things we once held as real have changed. Change is the true state of the world we live in.