Sunday
Jul092017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 48: Amitabha Sutra Spoken by Buddha

Amitabha Sutra Spoken by Buddha

In the Amitabha Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha urged us four times to seek rebirth in the Pure Land. First, “When sentient beings hear these teachings, they must take a vow to be born in this land.” Second, “I have seen this benefit, and so I speak these words. If sentient beings hear what I say, they must make a vow to be born in that land.” Third, “All of you should faithfully accept what I say and what all the Buddhas have said.” And fourth, “All good men and women, if they have faith, must make a vow to be born in that land.” Again and again, the Buddha urged us to seek rebirth in the Pure Land.

Why so often?

Seeing the suffering that all beings in samsara are subject to, the Buddha compassionately strove to do everything possible to teach us how to end our suffering. And encouraged us to do so as quickly as possible. How? Through the Pure Land Dharma door. Through the incredibly wondrous practice of Buddha-name chanting. For when one chants the Buddha-name, one accords with Amitabha Buddha. And as Great Master Ouyi said, “When one accords with Amitabha Buddha in a single thought, one attains rebirth in that thought. And when one accords with Amitabha Buddha in every thought, one attains rebirth in every thought.”

When we finally accomplish this, no obstruction will remain between us and the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Our mind will be in accord with Amitabha Buddha’s mind. Thus, our mind is the mind of Amitabha Buddha.

Our vows are the vows of Amitabha Buddha.

Our practice is the practice of Amitabha Buddha.

Our thoughts are the thoughts of Amitabha Buddha.

Think about this: Will you be able to attain rebirth in the Pure Land?

Yes, definitely.

Saturday
Jul082017

When about to complain,

remember “That’s my karma.”

Unappealing events assail us all the time. When they do, it can be very tempting to grumble, “Why me?” To which we might raise an eyebrow and query, “Who else? Everything that happens to us is a consequence of the causes we created, the seeds we planted. Having planted onion seeds last year in our flower beds, it would be silly to wander out the back door of our house this year and demand, “What are all those onions doing in my flower beds!” We planted them. No one snuck in under cover of darkness and sowed those seeds in our impregnable back yard. We’re the only person in the universe who can plant seeds in our private garden. No one else. Similarly, no one else can tend our garden. Planting, watering, fertilizing, and weeding depend on us alone. So the next time something unexpected pops up in the garden of our life, we can wisely nod and acknowledge, “Yup. That’s my karma.”

Tuesday
Jul042017

Before attempting to fix the issues around us,

we need to fix those inside us

Our underlying aspiration is to help all beings end their suffering. A noble goal. But before we can hope to fix even small problems in the world, we need to fix the problems within us. How can I tell others how to resolve their conflicts when anger still smolders within me? How can I end discrimination when I view everything in terms of like and dislike, smiling at some while ignoring others? How can I resolve ecological issues when I squander natural resources and treat Earth like a garbage dump? How can I correct government corruption and deceit when I avoid paying taxes and am not truthful with my family and co-workers. Until we clean our own house, people will not listen to us when we tell them how to clean theirs. And why should they? We influence others through our behavior. Yes, words are important, but they need to be supported by actions. And if our actions are altruistic and pervasive, words can become unnecessary.

Sunday
Jul022017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 47: Joyfully Accepting the Sutra

When Buddha finished preaching this sutra, Shariputra and all the monks, gods, humans, asuras and others who had been listening, having heard what the Buddha said, rejoiced and faithfully accepted it. They all bowed in homage and departed.

This is the final passage in the Amitabha Sutra. “Rejoiced” means that as the minds of those in the assembly opened up with understanding, they felt joy, both physically and mentally. Quite frankly, this joy is indescribable. Nothing else comes close to it because it is nothing less than being able to be forever free of the continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Not from any teaching can one find such joy: not from mundane or even from supramundane teachings. For example, the Buddha said that the teaching found in the Ten Virtuous Karmas Sutra can help one to end one’s suffering in this world. But the teaching found in the Amitabha Sutra is more wondrous still. It describes how to rely on one’s own efforts, which will invoke the help of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Those who mindfully chant the Buddha’s name will be assisted by the supportive powers of Amitabha Buddha’s causal vows and will be protected and kept in mind by all the Buddhas in the ten directions.

How can we not rejoice upon hearing these words? With careful observation and sincere contemplation, we will come to see that nothing can compare with this unequaled joy of being assisted, protected, and kept in mind by Amitabha Buddha and all the Buddhas in the ten directions.

In the phrase “faithfully accepted it,” “faithfully” signifies that those in the assembly had no doubt in what the Buddha just taught them.

“Accepted it” means they took in the teaching and never forgot it.

They then “bowed in homage.” By bowing, all those in the Amitabha assembly expressed their most sincere gratitude. Their bowing demonstrates that when one sincerely understands the teaching, dissolves doubt, develops belief, and makes the vow, then one’s bow is an expression of profound and heartfelt gratitude. One’s body and mind become one. One will then unceasingly remember, uphold, and study the teachings, and compassionately teach others through words and behavior.

And so, in like manner, when we feel gratitude for this inconceivably wondrous teaching, we too should express it not merely with words, but also by upholding and learning the teachings, and compassionately teaching others through words and behavior. From this moment until the moment we attain Buddhahood from practicing the Pure Land method, how can we do anything else but gratefully take these teachings to heart and always be mindful of Amitabha!

Friday
Jun302017

Before correcting someone,

determine why they’re acting as they are. 

Most of us would probably agree that just because some people act differently from the way we do, they’re not necessarily wrong. At least we know it intellectually. Emotionally, in light of the judgmental opinions rattling around our head, we still believe those people are wrong. If we recall something that just happened and how we viewed it, we will realize how many of our thoughts are still critical. Having felt exasperated, disappointed, bewildered, shocked, we blamed others for not having acted correctly; correctly being defined as how we would have acted. By learning why people conducted themselves as they did, we will better understand their actions. Maybe we will realize that what they did wasn’t wrong after all. Just different. So in those situations when we do need to correct someone—an employee, a child, someone who requests our guidance—we first need to learn what prompted their behavior.