Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Prayer for Peace

Most Holy and Divine Lord, Avalokiteshvara, I pray for an end to this needless war, for the cessation of all suffering, and for the enlightenment of ALL beings in this world and throughout the entire universe!
Om Mani Padme Hum Om Mani Padme Hum Om Mani Padme Hum

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On The Enlightenment of Plants.....

The Parable of the Great Rain Cloud

A dense cloud, spreading over and everywhere covering the whole three-thousand great-thousand fold universe, pours down its rain equally at the same time. Its moisture universally fertilizes the plants, trees, thickets, forests, and medicinal herbs…all receive its share. From the rain of the one cloud each plant, according to the nature of its kind, acquires its development- opening its blossoms and bearing its fruit…The Declarer of Truth (Tathagata-Buddha) is also like this; he appears in the world like the rising of that great cloud…I am the Declarer of Truth, the Buddha, the World-honored One…I know the present world and the world to come as they really are…

I look upon all living beings
Everywhere with equal eyes,
Without distinction of persons,
Or minds of love or hate.
I have no limitations or partiality;
Ever to all beings
I preach the Law equally;
As I preach to one person,
So I preach to all…
But beings, according to their nature,
Receive it differently,
Just as among plants and trees
Each takes a varying supply.

Shakyamuni Buddha
The Lotus Sutra

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Heart Sutra

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty*, and so released himself from suffering. Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.
The other four aspects of human existence --
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness --
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted.
Say it so:

Which means...
gone over,
gone fully over.
So be it!

* Emptiness is the usual translation for the Buddhist term Sunyata (or Shunyata). It refers to the fact that no thing -- including human existence -- has ultimate substantiality, which in turn means that no thing is permanent and no thing is totally independent of everything else. In other words, everything in this world is interconnected and in constant flux. A deep appreciation of this idea of emptiness thus saves us from the suffering caused by our egos, our attachments, and our resistance to change and loss.

Note: Perfection of Wisdom is a translation of Prajnaparamita. The full title of this sutra is The Heart of Prajnaparamita Sutra.

I have printed the Heart Sutra as its recitation forms an integral part of my daily practice, and is highly esteemed in the Zen schools as an ultimate statement of reality.

The Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters

This is the first Buddhist literature ever translated into the Chinese language. It was brought into China by the first missionaries from Central India, A. D. 67, who were specially invited by the Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty. This Sutra represents the crux of the Buddha's teaching. It is not fantastic and supernatural, as the latter Mahayana Sutras tend to be, in which the Buddha became, basically, a diety with a whole host of inhuman supernatural physical and spiritual qualities. The Buddha was just a more, no less. This Sutra, and other ones like it, make clear the humanity and practicality of the Buddha. We are reportedly living in "The Latter Day of the Law," or Mappo, during which time, the Buddha's teachings (except for a few exceptions, it is believed) have lost all power to bring living beings to enlightenment. Mappo is a concept that was particularly grasped upon in Japan by priests such as Shinran and Nichiren, and had great social and political meaning to the Japanese of the thirteenth century.

The Buddha's teachings are as profound and valid today as they were over two thousand years ago. Divine truth never loses it's ability to save, nor humans the capacity to become enlightened.


HAVING attained Buddhahood, the World-honored One thought thus: "To be free from the passions and to be calm, this is the most excellent Way."
He was absorbed in Great Meditation, subdued all evil ones, and in Deer Park caused to revolve the Wheel of Dharma, which was the Fourfold Truth, and converted the five Bhikshus, Kaudinya, etc., inducing them to attain Enlightenment.

Again, there were other Bhikshus who implored the Buddha to remove their doubts which they had concerning his doctrine. The World-honored One illumined all their minds through his authoritative teachings. The Bhikshus,

joining their hands and reverentially bowing, followed his august instructions.

(1) The Buddha said: "Those who leave their parents, go out of the home, understand the mind, reach the source, and comprehend the immaterial, are called Çramana.

"Those who observe the two hundred and fifty precepts of morality, who are pure and spotless in their behavior, and who exert themselves for the attainment of the four fruits of saintship, are called Arhats.

"The Arhat is able to fly through space and assume different forms; his life is eternal, and there are times when he causes heaven and earth to quake.

"Next is the Anâgâmin. At the end of his life, the spirit of the Anâgâmin ascends to the nineteenth heaven and obtains Arhatship.

"Next is the Skridâgâmin. The Skridâgâmin
ascends to the heavens [after his death], comes back to the earth once more, and then attains Arhatship.

"Next is the Srotaâpanna. The Srotaâpanna dies seven times and is born seven times, when he finally attains Arhatship.

"By the severance of the passions is meant that like the limbs severed they are never again made use of."
The Buddha said: "The homeless Çramana cuts off the passions, frees himself of attachments, understands the source of his own mind, penetrates the deepest doctrine of Buddha, and comprehends the Dharma which is immaterial. He has no prejudice in his heart, he has nothing to hanker after. He is not hampered by the thought of the Way, nor is he entangled in karma. No prejudice, no compulsion, no discipline, no enlightenment, and no going up through the grades, and yet in possession of all honors in itself,--this is called the Way."

The Buddha said: "Those who shaving their heads and faces become Çramanas and who receive instruction in the Way, should surrender all worldly possessions and be contented with whatever they obtain by begging. One meal a day and one lodging under a tree, and neither should be repeated. For what makes one stupid and irrational is attachments and the passions.

The Buddha said: "There are ten things considered good by all beings, and ten things evil. What are they? Three of them depend upon the body, four upon the mouth, and three upon thought.

"Three evil deeds depending upon the body are: killing, stealing, and committing adultery. The four depending upon the mouth are: slandering, cursing, lying, and flattery. The three depending upon thought are: envy, anger, and infatuation. All these things are against the Holy Way, and therefore they are evil.

"When these evils are not done, there are ten good deeds."

The Buddha said: "If a man who has committed many a misdemeanor does not repent and cleanse his heart of the evil, retribution will come upon his person as sure as the streams run into the ocean which becomes ever deeper and wider.

"If a man who has committed a misdemeanor come to the knowledge of it, reform himself, and practise goodness, the force of retribution will gradually exhaust itself as a disease gradually loses its baneful influence when the patient perspires."

The Buddha said: "When an evil-doer, seeing you practise goodness, comes and maliciously insults you, you should patiently endure it and not feel angry with him, for the evil-doer is insulting himself by trying to insult you."

The Buddha said: "Once a man came unto me and denounced me on account of my observing the Way and practising great lovingkindness. But I kept silent and did not answer him. The denunciation ceased. I then asked him, If you bring a present to your neighbor and he accepts it not, does the present come back to you?' The man replied, 'It will.' I said, 'You denounce me now, but as I accept it not, you must take the wrong deed back on your own person. It is like echo succeeding sound, it is like shadow following object; you never escape the effect of your own evil deeds. Be therefore mindful, and cease from doing evil.'"

The Buddha said: "Evil-doers who denounce the wise resemble a person who spits against the sky; the spittle will never reach the sky, but comes down on himself. Evil-doers again resemble a man who stirs the dust against the wind; the dust is never raised without doing him injury. Thus, the wise will never be hurt, but the curse is sure to destroy the evil-doers themselves."

The Buddha said: "If you endeavor to embrace the Way through much learning, the Way will not be understood. If you observe the Way with simplicity of heart, great indeed is this Way."

The Buddha said: "Those who rejoice in seeing others observe the Way will obtain great blessing." A Çramana asked the Buddha,
"Would this blessing ever be destroyed?" The Buddha said, "It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness, while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same It is even so with the bliss of the Way."

The Buddha said: "It is better to feed one good man than to feed one hundred bad men. It is better to feed one who observes the five precepts of Buddha than to feed one thousand good men. It is better to feed one Srotaâpanna than to feed ten thousands of those who observe the five precepts of Buddha. It is better to feed one Skridâgâmin than to feed one million of Srotaâpannas. It is better to feed one Anâgâmin than to feed ten millions of Skridâgâmins. It is better to feed one Arhat than to feed one hundred millions of Anâgâmins. It is better to feed one Pratyekabuddha than to feed one billion of Arhats. It is better to feed one of the Buddhas, either of the present, or of the past, or of the future, than to feed ten billions of Pratyekabuddhas. It is better to feed one who is above knowledge, onesidedness, discipline, and enlightenment than to feed one hundred billions of Buddhas of the past, present, or future."

The Buddha said: "There are twenty difficult things to attain [or to accomplish] in this world: (1) It is difficult for the poor to practise charity; (2) It is difficult for the strong and rich to observe the Way; 1 (3) It is difficult to disregard life and go to certain death; (4) It is only a favored few that get acquainted with a Buddhist sutra; (5) It is by rare opportunity that a person is born in the age of Buddha; (6) It is difficult to conquer the passions, to suppress selfish desires; (7) It is difficult not to hanker after that which is agreeable; (8) It is difficult not to get into a passion when slighted; (9) It is difficult not to abuse one's authority; (10) It is difficult to be even-minded and simple-hearted in all one's dealings with others; (11) It is difficult to be thorough in learning and exhaustive in investigation; (12) It is difficult to subdue selfish pride; (13) It is difficult not to feel contempt toward the unlearned; (14) It is difficult to be one in knowledge and practice; (15) It is difficult not to express an opinion about others; (16) It is by rare opportunity that one is introduced to a true spiritual teacher; (17) It is difficult to gain an insight into the nature of being and to practise the Way; (18) It is difficult to follow the steps of a savior; (19) It is difficult to be always the master of oneself; (20) It is difficult to understand thoroughly the Ways of Buddha."

A monk asked the Buddha: "Under what conditions is it possible to come to the knowledge of the past and to understand the most supreme Way?" The Buddha said: "Those who are pure in heart and single in purpose are able to understand the most supreme Way. It is like polishing a mirror, which becomes bright when the dust is removed. Remove your passions, and have no hankering, and the past will be revealed unto you."
A monk asked the Buddha: "What is good, and what is great?" The Buddha answered: "Good is to practise the Way and to follow the truth. Great is the heart that is in accord with the Way."

A monk asked the Buddha: "What is most powerful, and what is most illuminating?" The Buddha said: "Meekness is most powerful, for it harbors no evil thoughts, and, moreover, it is restful and full of strength. As it is free from evils, it is sure to be honored by all. 1

"The most illuminating is a mind which is thoroughly cleansed of dirt, and which, remaining pure, retains no blemishes. From the time when there was yet no- heaven and earth till the present day, there is nothing in the ten quarters which is not seen, or known, or heard by such a mind, for it has gained all-knowledge, and for that reason it is called 'illuminating."'

The Buddha said: "Those who have passions are never able to perceive the Way; for it is like stirring up clear water with hands; people may come there wishing to find a reflection of their faces, which, however, they will never see. A mind troubled and vexed with the passions is impure, and on that account it never sees the Way. O monks, do away with passions. When the dirt of passion is removed the Way will manifest itself."

The Buddha said: "Seeing the Way is like going into a dark room with a torch; the darkness instantly departs, while the light alone remains. When the Way is attained and the truth is seen, ignorance vanishes and enlightenment abides forever."

The Buddha said: "My doctrine is to think the thought that is unthinkable, to practise the deed that is not-doing, to speak the speech that is inexpressible, and to be trained in the discipline that is beyond discipline. Those who understand this are near, those who are confused are far. The Way is beyond words and expressions, is bound by nothing earthly. Lose sight of it to an inch, or miss it for a moment, and we are away from it forevermore."

The Buddha said: "Look up to heaven and down on earth, and they will remind you of their impermanency. Look about the world, and it will remind you of its impermanency. But when you gain spiritual enlightenment, you shall then find wisdom. The knowledge thus attained leads you anon to the Way."

The Buddha said: "You should think of the four elements of which the body is composed. Each of them has its own name, and there is no such thing there known as ego. As there is really no ego, it is like unto a mirage."

The Buddha said: "Moved by their selfish desires, people seek after fame and glory. But when they have acquired it, they are already stricken in years. If you hanker after worldly fame and practise not the Way, your labors are wrongfully applied and your energy is wasted. It is like unto burning an incense stick. However much its pleasing odor be admired, the fire that consumes is steadily burning up the stick."

The Buddha said: "People cleave to their worldly possessions and selfish passions so
blindly as to sacrifice their own lives for them. They are like a child who tries to eat a little, honey smeared on the edge of a knife. The amount is by no means sufficient to appease his appetite, but he runs the risk of wounding his tongue."

The Buddha said: "Men are tied up to their families and possessions more helplessly than in a prison. There is an occasion for the prisoner to be released, but householders entertain no desire to be relieved from the ties of family. When a man's passion is aroused nothing prevents him from ruining himself. Even into the maws of a tiger will he jump. Those who are thus drowned in the filth of passion are called the ignorant. Those who are able to overcome it are saintly Arhats."

The Buddha said: "There is nothing like lust. Lust may be said to be the most powerful passion. Fortunately, we have but one thing which is more powerful. If the thirst for truth were weaker than passion, how many of us in the world would be able to follow the way of righteous?"

The Buddha. said: "Men who are addicted to the passions are like the torch-carrier running against the wind; his hands are sure to be burned."

The Lord of Heaven offered a beautiful fairy to the Buddha, desiring to tempt him to the evil path, But the Buddha said, "Be gone. What use have I for the leather bag filled with filth which you have brought to me?" Then, the god reverently bowed and asked the Buddha about the essence of the Way, in which having been instructed by the Buddha, it is said, he attained the Srotaâpanna-fruit.

The Buddha said: "Those who are following the Way should behave like a piece of timber which is drifting along a stream. If the log is neither held by the banks, nor seized by men, nor obstructed by the gods, nor kept in the whirlpool, nor itself goes to decay, I assure you that this log will finally reach the ocean. If monks walking on the Way are neither tempted by the passions, nor led astray by some evil influences, but steadily pursue their course for Nirvâna, I assure you that these monks will finally attain enlightenment."

The Buddha said: "Rely not upon your own will. Your own will is not trustworthy. Guard yourselves against sensualism, for it surely leads to the path of evil. Your own will becomes trustworthy only when you have attained Arhatship."

The Buddha said: "O monks, you should not see women. 1 [If you should have to see them], refrain from talking to them. [If you should have to talk], you should reflect in a right spirit: 'I am now a homeless mendicant. In the world of sin, I must behave myself like unto the lotus flower whose purity is not defiled by the mud. Old ones I will treat as my mother; elderly ones as elder sisters; younger ones as younger sisters; and little ones as daughters.' And in all this you should harbor no evil thoughts, but think of salvation."

The Buddha said: "Those who walk in the Way should avoid sensualism as those who carry hay would avoid coming near the fire."

The Buddha said: "There was once a man who, being in despair over his inability to control his passions, wished to mutilate himself. 1 The Buddha said to him: 'Better destroy your own evil thoughts than do harm to your own person. The mind is lord. When the lord himself is calmed the servants will of themselves be yielding. If your mind is not cleansed of evil passions, what avails it to mutilate yourself?"' Thereupon, the Buddha recited the gâthâ,

"Passions grow from the will,
The will grows from thought and imagination:
When both are calmed,
There is neither sensualism nor transmigration."

The Buddha said, this gâthâ was taught before by Kâshyapabuddha.

The Buddha said: "From the passions arise worry, and from worry arises fear. Away with the passions, and no fear, no worry."

The Buddha said: Those who follow the Way are like unto warriors who fight single-handed with a multitude of foes. They may all go out of the fort in full armor; but among them are some who are faint-hearted, and some who go halfway and beat a retreat, and some who are killed in the affray, and some who come home victorious. O monks, if you desire to attain enlightenment, you should steadily walk in your Way, with a resolute heart, with courage, and should be fearless in whatever environment you may happen to be, and destroy every evil influence that you may come across; for thus you shall reach the goal."

One night a monk was reciting a sutra bequeathed by Kâshyapabuddha. His tone was so mournful, and his voice so fainting, as if he were going out of existence. The Buddha asked the monk, "What was your occupation before you became a homeless monk? "Said the monk, "I was very fond of playing the guitar." The Buddha said, "How did you find it when the strings were too loose?" Said the monk, "No sound is possible." "How when the strings were too tight?" "They crack." "How when they were neither too tight nor too loose?" "Every note sounds in its proper tone." The Buddha then said to the monk, "Religious discipline is also like unto playing the guitar. When the mind is properly adjusted and quietly applied, the Way is attainable; but when you are too fervently bent on it, your body grows tired; and when your body is tired, your spirit becomes weary; when your spirit is weary, your discipline will relax; and with the relaxation of discipline there follows many an evil. Therefore, be calm and pure, and the Way will be gained."

The Buddha said: "When a man makes utensils out of a metal which has been thoroughly cleansed of dross, the utensils will be excellent. You monks, who wish to follow the Way, make your own hearts clean from the dirt of evil passion, and your conduct will be unimpeachable."

The Buddha said: "Even if one escapes from the evil creations, it is one's rare fortune to be born as a human being. Even if one be born as human, it is one's rare fortune to be born as a man and not a woman. Even if one be born a man, it is one's rare fortune to be perfect in all the six senses. Even if he be perfect in all the six senses, it is his rare fortune to be born in the middle kingdom. Even if he be born in the middle kingdom, it is his rare fortune to be born in the time of a Buddha. Even if he be born in the time of a Buddha, it is his rare fortune to see the enlightened. Even if he be able to see the enlightened, it is his rare fortune to have his heart awakened in faith. Even if he have faith, it is his rare fortune to awaken the heart of intelligence. Even if he awakens the heart of intelligence, it is his rare fortune to realize a spiritual state which is above discipline and attainment."

The Buddha said: "O children of Buddha! You are away from me ever so many thousand miles, but if you remember and think of my precepts, you shall surely gain the fruit of enlightenment. You may, standing by my side, see me alway, but if you observe not my precepts, you shall never gain enlightenment."

The Buddha asked a monk, "How do you measure the length of a man's life?" The monk answered, "By days." The Buddha said, "You do not understand the Way."

The Buddha asked another monk, "How do you measure the length of a man's life?" The answered, "By the time that passes during a meal." The Buddha said, "You do not understand the way."

The Buddha asked a third monk, "How do you measure the length of a man's life?" The monk answered, "By the breath." The Buddha said, "Very well, you know the Way."

The Buddha said, "Those who study the doctrine of the Buddhas will do well to believe and observe all that is taught by them. It is like unto honey; it is sweet within, it is sweet without, it is sweet throughout; so is the Buddhas' teaching."

The Buddha said: "O monks, you must not walk on the Way as the ox that is attached to the wheel. His body moves, but his heart is not willing. But when your hearts are in accord with the Way, there is no need of troubling yourselves about your outward demeanor."

The Buddha said: "Those who practise the Way might well follow the example of an ox that marches through the deep mire carrying a heavy load. He is tired, but his steady gaze, looking forward, will never relax until he come out of the mire, and it is only then that he takes a respite. O monks, remember that passions and sins are more than the filthy mire, and that you can escape misery only by earnestly and steadily thinking of the Way."

The Buddha said: "I consider the dignities of kings and lords as a particle of dust that floats in the sunbeam. I consider the treasure of precious metals and stones as bricks and pebbles. I consider the gaudy dress of silks and brocades as a worn-out rag. I consider this universe as small as the holila (?) fruit. I consider the lake of Anavatapta as a drop of oil with which one smears the feet. I consider the various methods of salvation taught by the Buddhas as a treasure created by the imagination. I consider the transcendental doctrine of Buddhism as precious metal or priceless fabric seen in a dream. I consider the teaching of Buddhas as a flower before my eyes. I consider the practice of Dhyâna as a pillar supporting the Mount Sumeru. I consider Nirvâna as awakening from a day dream or nightmare. I consider the struggle between heterodox and orthodox as the antics of the six [mythical] dragons. I consider the doctrine of sameness as the absolute ground of reality. I consider all the religious works done for universal salvation as like the plants in the four seasons."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pure Land Here and Now....

The following is an intersting article not only on the tradition of Vietnamese Buddhism, but on the concept of the nature of the Pure Land as a whole.

The Reconciliation of Zen and Pure Land Buddhism

by Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma
I am quite pleased to follow Rev. Thich Tam Tue after his beautiful lecture last Sunday on Amitabha Buddha. It seems so odd that Pure Land and Zen should be reconciled, since their philosophic basis and their view on life vary so much. But in China, Korea and Vietnam, these two schools did come to form a syncretic, holistic view of Buddhism. And this is the topic that I have chosen to speak on today.

First, I should mention a little about the history of Buddhism in Vietnam. Buddhism came to Vietnam from India by sea in the first century of the common era, during the time of King Asoka, India's great Buddhist emperor. They brought, of course, Hinayana Buddhism, today known as Theravada Buddhism. Two hundred years later a Chinese community was well established. From a description of a Chinese convert, who wrote that the monks wore saffron robes, shaved their heads and ate only one meal a day, it is clear that Theravadan monks were serving their community.

As you know, Bodhidharma came from India to China in 520 C.E. and introduced Zen (or the meditation school) to them. In the latter part of the sixth century (580 C.E.) a monk came from India, bringing Zen to Vietnam. His name was Vinitaruci (Ty ni da lu chi in Vietnamese). Two hundred fifty years later a Chinese monk entered Vietnam to fulfill his Bodhisattva vows, to save all living beings. This school became known as Vo Ngon Thong school. The third Zen school arrived at the beginning of the eleventh century and was known by its founder's name, Thao Duong. This school was a union of Zen and Pure Land.

It was the seventeenth century when Lam Te Buddhism reached Vietnam. The founding master of this school is the famous Lin Chi, better known by his Japanese name, Rinzai. This school became known by the Vietnamese master who popularized the school, Lieu Quan. It became the most important school in Central Vietnam, and all Buddhist monks ordained at this temple are in the Lieu-Quan lineage line. Now, the lineage line does not necessarily tell you what their practice is. For example, Rev. Thich Tam-Thien's (Kusala) practice has a lot of Theravada elements in it. Rev. Thich Tam-An (Ruja) is totally a Theravada practice. Rev. Thich Tam-Tue (Rev. Tri Ratna Priya) practices more of the Zen-Pure Land tradition. Probably the only disciples here who practice primarily the Lieu-Quan form of Buddhism are myself, Thich Tam-Tri (Vajra) and Br. Jnana (Lynn). This mixed practice is typical of Vietnamese Buddhism itself where monks of different traditions practice together in the same temples: Theravada, Pure Land and Zen, with a little tantra mixed in for good measure. This is, I believe, also common in China and Korea.

At any rate, the lineage of this temple is Lieu-Quan, a totally Zen tradition, coming directly from Lin Chi of China. It was popularized by monks who felt that Zen had become too polluted by Pure Land, and who wanted to revert to pure Thien or Zen.

Ven. Thich Nhat-Hanh says of the Thien school in his book Lotus in a Sea of Fire:

"In the history of Vietnamese Buddhism, Thien is by far the most important sect. The practice of Thien is by no means easy. It requires a profound and powerful inner life, long and persistent training, and a strong firm will. The attitude of Thien toward the search for truth and its view of the problem of living in this world are extremely liberal. Thien does nor recognize any dogma or belief that would hold back man's progress in acquiring knowledge or in his daily life. Thien differs from Orthodox religions in that it is not conditioned by any set of beliefs. In other words, Thien is an attitude or methodology for arriving at knowledge and action. For Thien the techniques of right eating and drinking, of right breathing and right concentration and meditation, are far more vital than mere beliefs. A person who practices Zen meditation does not have to rely on beliefs of hell, Nirvana, rebirth or causality; he has only to rely on the reality of his body, his psychology, biology, and his own past experiences of the instruction of Zen masters who have preceded him. His aim is to attain, to penetrate , to see. Once he has attained satori (insight) his action will conform by itself to reality."
So, you see, this temple was founded by a man who identified himself as a Zen monk. In fact, I did not learn much of Pure Land until the refugees arrived from Vietnam. Dr. Thien-An, understanding Americans, taught us pure Zen, and that was his point of departure. To the Vietnamese, his point of departure was Amitabha Buddha and Pure Land thought. Now how could such divergent attitudes be found in one man and taught by him?

Since Zen is more a methodology than a system of thought, although it certainly does have a system of thought, the self-power of Zen, contains the other power of Pure Land. Once you have self power, you must have other power. After all, the Recitation of the Buddha's name is used as a concentration exercise. This is where Chinese/ Vietnamese Pure Land differs from Japanese forms. The Vietnamese Pure Land adherents also meditate whenever they have the time to, whereas Jodosinshu says that meditation is a mere psychological trick, where you think you are capable of saving yourself. They say we must drop meditation and all thoughts of saving ourselves, and rely only upon Buddha Amitabha to save us. Their practice is to realize exactly who and what they are, without any rosy constructs placed upon their realization.

If your practice is to devoid everything in your mind, does it matter is you use a koan, shikentaza or recreating the Buddha in your mind? All of these techniques work if they are done with great diligence and bring the meditator to the same point, to the satori experience (that is to insight, which Theravadans praise so much.)

When you begin Pure Land practice, you think of the Buddha and his Pure Land as being apart from you. But as you practice it, slowly you come to realize that you and Amitabha are one and the same. You can experience the Pure Land right here and now.

For instance, the great Japanese Zen man, D. T. Suzuki was fascinated by Pure Land. He studied it and translated their writings in to English. He came to the conclusion that Zen and Pure Land Buddhism are the same. And Dr. Thien-An certainly believed it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Metta Karuna Prayer

Oneness of Life and Light,Entrusting in your Great Compassion,
May you shed the foolishness in myself,
Transforming me into a conduit of Love.
May I be a medicine for the sick and weary,
Nursing their afflictions until they are cured;
May I become food and drink,
During time of famine,May I protect the helpless and the poor,
May I be a lamp,
For those who need your Light,
May I be a bed for those who need rest,and guide all seekers to the Other Shore.
May all find happiness through my actions,and let no one suffer because of me.
Whether they love or hate me,Whether they hurt or wrong me,May they all realize true entrusting,Through Other Power,and realize Supreme Nirvana.

Namu Amida Butsu

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amida Who?

Before I proceed, I must state that in no way am I an expert on Buddhism, or anything for that matter. I am neither priest, monk, teacher, or role model for any aspiring Buddhist or seeker of truth. I am not affiliated with the Jodo Shu or Jodo Shinshu sects, though I owe a great debt to the founders and practioners of these great schools of Buddhism. I follow the path of Jodo Zen. My practice consists of the meditative chanting of the Nembutsu and the sutras, mindfulness of the Buddha, meditation, and the nourishment of my Buddha Nature. I believe that all beings can and DO attain Enlightenment, and that the attainment of Enlightenment or Awakening, and the manifestation of the Pure Land, can and does occur in this present life, in this Saha World. We CAN and DO change our Karma by our practice of Buddhism. Negative Karma can be changed, or "cut" by the manifestation of our own inherent Buddhahood. The ideas and opinions expressed in this BLOG are exactly that-my ideas and opinions. That being said, I pose this question: Who, or WHAT is Amida Buddha?

The sheer volume of Buddhist literature, both on the Internet and in print, is staggering. Every sect’s teaching, every Buddhist school of thought or opinion can be found quite easily. It would indeed take a lifetime to read every Buddhist sutra, essay, treatise, commentary, opinion, etc. It boggles my limited mind. It is commonly said in Buddhism that the Buddha left 84,000 teachings. 84,000 ways to Enlightenment. See what I mean?

If you research contemporary Pure Land Buddhism, you also meet a great diversity in thought and practice. As in Christianity, there are believers whose approach to faith swings from the most literal and "fundamentalist" interpretion of the Sutras to the most broad and esoteric. I am currently somewhere in the middle.

Amida...Amitabha...the Buddha of Infinite Boundless Light and Eternal Life....the Buddha whose Light reaches and illuminates all beings in the ten directions of the universe. Was, or IS Amida a real, historic person? Who can say with any certainty. My answer would be yes and no. Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the Buddha consists of three distinct yet unified bodies. The first body is the Darmakaya , or the Absolute. It is the source of everything including buddha activity, and is not different from the Void (Skt. shunyata, Emptiness.) It is not usually experienced except by fully realized beings. It is not normally "prayed to," though it is saluted or praised. Its nature is the subject of much discussion. The Second Body, the Sambhogakaya, or Bliss Body, can only be seen by beings of pure mind such as great realized beings. The Buddha Amida, as He exists in imagery in His Pure Land, is the Sambhogakaya. The third body, the Nirmanakaya, is the physical, human expression of Buddha. Shakyamuni is considered to be the Nirmanakaya. I believe Anmida was/is "real", in that I accept the belief that Amida is a personification of the Dharmakaya, the incomprehinsible reality of the universe. Because the Dharmakays is intangible, "empty," unformed and unborn, it cannot be grasped by our human minds. Descriptions of what the dharmakaya actually IS and IS NOT could fill volumes and still never touch the true nature of what "IT" actually is. I believe that the Dharmakaya is the Ultimate Reality of the universe, the True Nature encompasing all beings (whether sentient or insentient) and phenomonon. IT is incomprehensible love and compassion. The Dharmakaya, I believe, is both impersonal in that it is a force inhabiting EVERYTHING, and also personal, in that it can manifest it's self in any form out of boundless love and compassion (such as Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Saints and Messiahs), to bring all beings to spiritual enlightenment according to their culture and spiritual capacity.

Since the Dharmakaya is all beings, phenomenon, etc., It is something of a "collective, " the one in many and the many in one." The various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Saints, Messiahs, etc., are manifested by this great force of love and compassion. For our purposes, as Buddhists in this Saha World, Shakyamuni Buddha is the incarnation or emanitation of Amida, as previously mentioned, the Nirmanakaya, the third of the Three Bodies of the Buddha. The three bodies of Amida, unified, are for me, the Ultimate, the Personication of this great Universal Entity, this Universal Consciousness. Amida Buddha also represents our own innate Buddha Nature. Buddha Nature, let it be said, is not limited to humans, but exists within animals, plants, insects, bacteria and viruses, stars, planets, black holes, and so on and so on. The Buddha and the Pure Land are one....they are Enlightenment.

When we chant the Nembutsu, Namu Amida Butsu, we become one with Amida, our Buddha Nature. Our mind becomes Amida's Mind. We manifest our Buddha Nature in it's highest expression. Amida IS Enlightenment. WE, ourselves, become Amida Buddha-Enlightenment. As we unite ourselves more and more with Amida (Buddha Nature, Universal/Cosmic Buddha) there is a shift in our Ichinen, or our basic life Condition as taught in the Tendai Lotus School's Doctrine of Ichinen Sanzen. Our fundamental reality becomes Buddha, therefore transforming our environment into the Pure Land. Do you go to the heavenly Pure Land and become a Buddha when you die? I don't know. I believe that rebirth into the Pure Land is a "here and now" transormation of our consciousness and of our perception of the environment, based upon our own Satori (Awakening) and shift of our Ichinen to that of Buddha. There are those who would agree with me on this, and those who take a different point of view. Diversity in thought is what makes life so precious.
I try not to sit around and ruminate on all of the theoretical and esoteric aspects of this great philosophy, as I find it sets up "speed bumps" of confusion in my mind, and distracts me from the process of "realizing" Awakening.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Buddha Name Recitation Methods

Four Methods of Buddha Recitation

Buddha Recitation does not consist of oral recitation alone, but also includes contemplation and meditation. Therefore, within the Pure Land School, there are, in addition to Oral Recitation, three other methods, namely: Real Mark, Contemplation by Thought and Contemplation of an Image.

1. Real Mark [Self-Nature] Buddha Recitation

This entails penetrating the Mind's foremost meaning -- reciting our own original Buddha Nature. It is to contemplate the Real Mark Dharma Body of the Buddhas, resulting in attainment of True Thusness Samadhi.
This method is really a Zen practice; however, since the realm revealed by the meditational mind is the Pure Land, it also qualifies as a Pure Land practice. This method is not for those of limited or moderate capacities -- if the practitioner is not of the highest capacity, he cannot "become enlightened and enter" into it. For this reason, few Pure Land teachers promote it and the proponents of the method are found chiefly within the Zen tradition.

Incidentally, I would venture to say here that while we are still treading the path of Practice, not having reached the stage of Perfect Enlightenment, all Dharma methods are expedients; Buddha Recitation is an expedient and so is Zen. According to the Three Pure Land sutras, Buddha Sakyamuni provided the expedient teaching of the Western Pure Land, and urged sentient beings to recite Amitabha Buddha's name seeking rebirth there. With this method, they can escape Birth and Death, avail themselves of that wonderful, lofty realm to pursue cultivation, and swiftly attain Buddhahood. Diligent Buddha Recitation also leads to Awakening, as in Zen; however, the principal goal of the Pure Land School is rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, while the degree of Awakening achieved is a secondary consideration.

Thus, the goal of Real Mark Buddha Recitation falls within Pure Land teachings. However, from the standpoint of an expedient leading to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it does not truly qualify as a Pure Land method within the meaning of the Three Pure Land sutras taught by Buddha Sakyamuni. This is, perhaps, the reason why Pure Land Patriarchs merely referred to it to broaden the meaning of Buddha Recitation, but did not expound it widely.

2. Contemplation by Thought Recitation

This entails meditation on the features of Buddha Amitabha and His Land of Ultimate Bliss, in accordance with the Meditation Sutra. (The Sutra teaches a total of sixteen contemplations.) If this practice is perfected, the cultivator will always visualize the Pure Land before him. Whether his eyes are open or closed, his mind and thoughts are always coursing through the Pure Land. At the time of death, he is assured of rebirth there.
The virtues obtained through this method are immense and beyond imagination, but since the object of meditation is too profound and subtle, few practitioners can achieve it. This is because, in general, the method presents five difficulties: i) with dull capacities, one cannot easily succeed; ii) with a crude mind, one cannot easily succeed; iii) without knowing how to use expedients skillfully and flexibly during actual practice, one cannot easily succeed; iv) without the ability to remember images clearly, one cannot easily succeed; v) with low energy, one cannot easily succeed.

Very few can avoid all five pitfalls. Thus, upon reflection, this method also belongs to the category of difficult Dharma doors.

3. Contemplation of an Image Recitation

In this method, the practitioner faces a statue of Amitabha Buddha and impresses all the features of that statue in his memory -- contemplating to the point where, even in the absence of a statue, and whether his eyes are open or closed, he clearly sees the image of Amitabha Buddha.
This method is also difficult, because it requires a great deal of energy, a faithful memory and skillful use of expedients. There are cases of individuals who have practiced it in an inflexible way and have developed headaches difficult to cure. Moreover, upon examination, this method of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land is not mentioned in the sutras. It is merely a technique to assist in the practice of Buddha Recitation, so that the practitioner can harness his mind and achieve right thought. Still, if we practice this method in a pure, devoted frame of mind, we can obtain a response, eradicate our bad karma, develop virtue and wisdom, and, through an "illusory" statue of Amitabha Buddha, awaken to His True Marks and achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.

4. Oral Recitation

In this method, the practitioner recites, aloud or silently, either "Nam Mo Amitabha Buddha or "Amitabha Buddha." The short form (Amitabha Buddha) has the advantage of easily focusing the cultivator's mind, while the longer version facilitates development of a truly earnest, respectful mind conducive to a response.
This method, taught by Sakyamuni Buddha in the Shorter Amitabha Sutra, is the dominant form of Pure Land practice at the present time.

A brief examination of the four methods of Buddha Recitation shows that the Real Mark [No. 1] and Contemplation of an Image [No. 3] methods are not mentioned in the Three Pure Land sutras. They are referred to only in the Buddha Recitation Samadhi Sutra and a few other sutras or commentaries. Both of these methods are secondary expedients to expand on the true meaning of Buddha Recitation; they are not recognized methods traditionally taught by Pure Land Patriarchs.

The Real Mark method has the unique advantage of teaching the profound and exalted meaning of Buddha Recitation. However, it is too lofty to embrace people of all capacities and "strays" in the direction of Zen. The Contemplation of an Image method is merely a subsidiary technique and is not easy to practice. These two methods, therefore, are not recommended for Pure Land practitioners. Likewise, the Contemplation by Thought method [No. 2], although expounded by Buddha Sakyamuni and leading to immense virtue, is reserved for those of high capacities. In the present Dharma-Ending Age, few can practice it.

In conclusion, only Oral Recitation embraces people of all capacities, leads to swift results and is easy enough for anyone to practice. Oral Recitation, practiced earnestly and correctly, will bring a response; in this very life, we can immediately see the features of Amitabha Buddha and the adornments of the Western Pure Land and awaken to the Original Mind. Even if we cannot attain True Mark in this life, we will certainly attain it after rebirth in the Pure Land. For this reason, the Thirteenth Pure Land Patriarch, Master Yin Kuang, wrote the following words of praise:

Exclusively reciting the Name will bring attainment of True Mark,
Without contemplation we will still see the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Ancient masters have also commented:
Among Dharma methods, Pure Land is the short cut for attaining the Way.
Within Pure Land, Oral Recitation is the short cut.
Nowadays, this method is the most popular form of Buddha Recitation.
Ten Variants of Oral Recitation
As indicated above, Oral Recitation is the most common Pure Land method at the present time. However, this method has many variants, to accommodate the circumstances and capacities of the individual. A few of these variants are summarized below.

1. Reflecting the Name Recitation

With this technique, the ear catches the sound as the mouth recites, examining each individual word and each individual phrase, to make sure they are clear and distinct, phrase after phrase. There are two ways of hearing, with the ears or with the mind. Although the ears "hear deep inside," the sounds do not reside anywhere. The practitioner gradually forgets everything inside and out -- even body, mind, realm, time and space -- with only the Buddha's name remaining.
This technique of "reflecting the name," makes it easy for the cultivator to filter out deluded thoughts and swiftly achieve one-pointedness of mind. The Surangama Sutra expresses this very idea when it states, in the words of the Bodhisattva Manjusri:

This common method of concentrating the mind on its sense of hearing, turning it inward ... is most feasible and wise. (Wai-tao, tr. "The Surangama Sutra," in D. Goddard, ea., A Buddhist Bible, p. 260.)

2. Counting Rosary Beads Recitation

In this method, as the mouth recites, the hand fingers the rosary. At first, thoughts are tied to the rosary beads, but later on they gradually move away from the beads, leading to the state of one-pointedness of mind. This technique increases the power of recitation in the same way that a cane enables a mountain climber with weak legs to ascend higher and higher.
With this technique, we should write down the number of recitations per session or per day. This has the advantage of forcing us to keep an exact count, eliminating the affliction of laziness. However, we should take care not to be too ambitious, attempting to achieve too much too soon, or our recitation will not be clear and distinct. The ancients, while reciting the Buddha's name over and over, did so in a clear, distinct manner thanks to two factors: "correct understanding" and "correct concentration of mind." Elder Master Ou-I, the Ninth Patriarch of Pure Land once taught:

There is no better or loftier way to reach the state of one-pointedness of mind. At first the practitioner should finger the rosary, keeping an exact count, while reciting the Buddha's name over and over in a clear, distinct manner, 30,000, 50,000 up to 100,000 times each day, maintaining that number without fail, determined to remain constant throughout his life. Such recitation will, in time, become second nature -- not reciting being reciting. At that time, recording or not recording no longer matters. If such recitation, accompanied by earnest Faith and Vows, did not lead to rebirth in the Pure Land, the Buddhas of the Three Periods (past, present and future) would all be guilty of false speech. Once we are reborn in the Pure Land, all Dharma methods will appear before our eyes.
If at the outset we seek too high a goal, are over-confident and eager to show that we are not attached to forms and marks, preferring to study according to the free and perfect method, we reveal a lack of stability and depth in our Faith and Vows as well as perfunctoriness in our Practice. Even if we were to lecture exhaustively on the Twelve Divisions of the Dharma [all the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni] and become enlightened to the 1,700 Zen koans, these would merely be activities on the fringes of life and death.

This advice is indeed a compass for the Pure Land practitioner.

3. Breath-by-Breath Recitation

This technique consists of reciting silently or softly, with each breath, inhaling or exhaling, accompanied by one recitation of the Buddha's name. Since life is linked to breath, if we take advantage of breath while practicing Buddha Recitation, we will not be apart from Buddha Amitabha in life and at the time of death, when breath has stopped, we will be immediately reborn in the Pure Land. The practitioner should remember, however that once he has mastered this technique, he should recite aloud as well as silently. In this way, the power of recitation will be strengthened and the will to be reborn in the Pure Land more easily developed. Otherwise, his resolve will not be earnest and he might "stray" into the practice of the "Five Meditations to calm the mind" of the Theravada tradition.

4. Continuously Linked Recitation

With this technique, the practitioner recites softly, each word following the one immediately before, each phrase closely following the previous phrase ...
During this practice, through discretion and patience, there are no empty time frames and therefore "sundry thoughts" cannot intrude. The cultivator's feelings and thoughts are intense, his mind and mouth move boldly forward reciting the Buddha's name; the power of right thought embraces everything, temporarily subduing ignorance and delusive thought. Thus, the light of transcendental samadhi breaks through and shines forth.

From early times, Pure Land practitioners would avail themselves of this method when their emotions and thoughts wandered or were in a state of confusion.

5. Enlightened, Illuminating Recitation

With this technique, the practitioner on the one hand recites the Buddha's name and on the other, "returns the light" and illumines his True Nature. He thus enters into the realm of ultimate transcendental emptiness; what remains is only the consciousness that his body-mind and the True Mind of the Buddha have become one -- all-illuminating and all-encompassing. At that time, meditation rooms, cushions, gongs and all else have disappeared. Even the illusory, "composite body" is nowhere to be found.
With this practice, even while our present "retribution body" is not yet dead, silent illumination is attained. Uttering the Buddha's name, the practitioner immediately achieves the state of samadhi. There is no swifter method for common mortals to enter the realm of the saints.

Unfortunately, we cannot understand or practice this method unless we are of the highest capacity. Therefore, its scope is rather modest and limited.

6. Bowing to the Buddha Recitation

This technique consists of making bows as we recite the Buddha's name. Either we recite once before each bow or we bow as we recite, regardless of the number of recitations. The bowing should be supple yet deliberate, complementing recitation, bowing and reciting perfectly synchronized. If we add a sincere and earnest mind, body, speech and mind are gathered together. Except for the words Amitabha Buddha, there is not the slightest deluded thought.[43]
This method has the ability to destroy the karma of drowsiness. Its benefits are very great, because the practitioner engages in recitation with his body, speech and mind. A lay practitioner of old used to follow this method, and each day and night, he would bow and recite an average of one thousand times.

However, this practice is the particular domain of those with strong mind-power. Lacking this quality, it is difficult to persevere, because with extended bowing, the body easily grows weary, leading to discouragement. Therefore, this method is normally used in conjunction with other methods and is not practiced in exclusivity.

7. Decimal Recording Recitation

This is the inscription technique of Buddha Recitation, taking each ten utterances of the Buddha's name as a unit. Individuals with short breath spans can divide the ten utterances into two subunits (five utterances each) or three smaller subunits (two three-utterance units and one four-utterance unit). One rosary bead is fingered after each group of ten utterances is completed.
With this practice, the mind must not only recite, it must also remember the number of utterances. In this way, if we are not diligent we must become so; otherwise, it will be impossible to avoid mistakes.

This technique, in general, is an excellent expedient forcing the cultivator to concentrate his mind and is very effective with those subject to many errant thoughts. Elder Master Yin Kuang used to recommend it to Pure Land practitioners.

8. Lotus Blossom Recitation

As he recites, the practitioner contemplates the four colors of the lotus blossom (blue, yellow, red and white), one color after another without interruption. With his first utterance of the Buddha's name, he visualizes a huge, blue lotus blossom before his eyes, emitting a blue light. With the second utterance, he visualizes a yellow lotus blossom, emitting a yellow light. The third and fourth utterances are accompanied, respectively, by visualization of red and white lotus flowers, each color emitting its own light. He then repeats the visualization in the same sequence. As the flowers appear, he imagines a vague, lingering touch of pure, soft lotus fragrance.
Ancient masters devised this method because many practitioners in the T'ien T'ai School, despite using all available techniques, found it difficult to stem their errant thoughts. This method uses various forms and colors to focus mind and thought. These forms and colors take the marks of lotus blossoms in the Seven-Jewel Pond of the Pure Land ("one utterance of the Buddha's name, one jeweled lotus blossom"), because the lotus blossoms appearing in the Pure Land are inseparable from the lotus blossoms created by the virtues of the reciting mind. At the time of death, the mind-consciousness of the practitioner relies on these jeweled lotus blossoms to achieve rebirth in the Western Pure Land.

If the Pure Land cultivator should discover that he has an affinity with this technique, he should apply it and quickly enter the Wonderful Lotus Blossom Buddha Recitation Samadhi.

9. Recitation Amidst Light

This method was specially designed for certain practitioners who, as soon as they close their eyes to recite, suddenly see filthy forms and marks (ugly grimacing faces, for example), or dark forms and colors swirling around.
With this technique, the practitioner, while reciting the Buddha's name, visualizes himself seated in the middle of an immense, brilliant zone of light. Within that zone of light, when his mind has quieted down, the practitioner feels bright and refreshed. At that time, not only have deluded thoughts been annihilated, filthy, evil forms have also disappeared. After that, right thought is reinforced and samadhi is, in time, achieved.

Although this is a special expedient to destroy evil deluded marks, even the practitioner who is not in this predicament can apply this method to clear his mind and enter deeply into the Buddha Recitation Samadhi.

10. "Contemplation of the Buddha" Recitation

The methods of contemplation taught in the Meditation Sutra are very important and lead to immense virtue, but they are not a popular expedient for sentient beings in the Dharma-Ending Age. Nevertheless, since the ancient masters did not wish to see the special benefits of the meditation method go unused, they selected the easiest of the Sixteen Contemplations (Contemplation of Amitabha Buddha) and combined it with Oral Recitation to form the Contemplation of the Buddha-Oral Recitation technique. (Recitation is predominant, with contemplation of the Buddha occupying a subsidiary position.)
Each day, after reciting the Buddha's name, the practitioner reserves a special period of time for concentrating his mind and contemplating the Embellishments and Light of Amitabha Buddha. This method is derived from Contemplation Number Thirteen in the Meditation Sutra, in which Buddha Amitabha is visualized as some sixteen feet tall and of golden hue, standing at the edge of the Seven-Jewel Pond. If the practitioner cannot yet visualize the Seven-Jewel Pond, he can picture Amitabha Buddha standing before his eyes in a zone of light, in open space, the left hand held at chest level and forming the auspicious mudra, the right arm extending downward in the position of "welcoming and guiding."

To be successful in this meditation, it is necessary, at the outset, to visualize the body of Amitabha Buddha in general, then concentrate on the urna (white mark between the eyebrows). This mark is empty and transparent, like a white gem with eight facets ... The urna is the basic mark among the thirty-two auspicious marks of the Buddhas. When this visualization is successful, thanks to the affinity thus created between Amitabha Buddha and the practitioner, other marks will appear clearly, one after another. However, to ensure success, the practitioner should read through the Meditation Sutra memorizing the thirty-two auspicious marks of Buddha Amitabha before commencing his practice.

With this method, Buddha Recitation should be primary, because if the practitioner does not succeed at visualization, he can still fall back on recitation to ensure rebirth in the Pure Land. In truth, however, recitation aids visualization and visualization complements recitation, so that these two aspects work in parallel, leading the practitioner toward the desired goal.

Although this technique is somewhat more difficult than the others, if it can be accomplished successfully, immeasurable benefits are achieved. It is therefore described here at the very end, to foster diligent practice.

As stated earlier, these ten variants of Oral Recitation are also the ten basic techniques to combat the various mental hindrances faced by Buddha Recitation practitioners. Pure Land books discuss several dozen variants. However, they are merely techniques using, inter alia, a loud voice or a low voice at busy moments or at times of leisure. They cannot as such qualify as methods of recitation. For this reason, the author has singled out these ten basic variants of Oral Recitation to combat the obstructions of drowsiness and mind-scattering. They are the methods best suited to the majority of today's practitioners. The cultivator can try them out and select the one that fits his particular case.

Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice
Dharma Master Thich Thien Tam
Translated and edited by the Van Hien Study Group
Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Images of Buddha

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you.
As the wheel follows the ox that draws
the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shaddow, unshakable.

The Dhammapada

In my study of Buddhism over the years, I've read that every occurance in out lives, every person we meet and interact with, is an oppurtunity to learn the Dharma. This morning, I've had a great learning moment, a chance to encounter the reality of the Dharma as it opperates in my life.

This past week, I've been feigning illness to avoid "hanging out" with a certain young man that I just really don't care to assiciate with. It's not that he's a bad person, or that he has any really negative characteristics. He likes me, and wants intimacy and romance with the least friendship and constant contact. For my part, I'm simply not interested. It doesn't make be "bad," it's something I don't want in my life at the moment. It just doesn't feel right. So, in my delusional reasoning, I chose to be "kind" to him by lying to him and avoiding telling him the truth. Avoidance seems to be a recurring theme in my life.

So...gues what? I woke up sick this morning, with the same symptoms I'd been faking all week. Coincidence? I don't think so. I am experiencing the reality that I had created with my own words. It's not that I'm being punished by the Buddha....I'm not being disciplined or chastised at all. I'm simiply experiencing the concrete effect that I created the cause for....Karma.

This struck a chord with me this morning, and I searched through some of the Buddhist scriptures, and found the above teaching delivered by the Buddha.

There is a concept in Buddhism which states that our mind and bodies are one, and that our environment is a direct manifestation of what's going on inwardly and spiritually. We are always so careless with the words we casually throw about all day. Western thought simply doesn't grasp this as a common fact. So...what did I learn? I saw evidence of a truth I professed and believed theoreticly. I was able to internalize see the true workings of Karma in my life.

So, as I go about my day, I am going to strive to be more conscious of the reality I am second by second creating. I can choose to speak blessings or curses into my reality. It's our experience the bounty of the universe, whether we recognize the divinely simple truth inherent in our own lives or not.

Namu Amida Butsu

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Namu Amida Butsu!

Welcome to my Buddhism page glorifying the beautiflul and most compassionate Lord, Amida Buddha! Amida is the great fount of love which holds the cosmos together. He is absolute, unconditional love. Amida doesn't care if you're straight or gay, black, white or whatever. Amida's salvation is open to all beings....all it takes is simply opening your heart to Him! In Christianity, God/Jesus loves you an will "save" you only if you "fit." Amida accepts and loves you no matter who or what you are. Amida never gets angry or jealous...He doesn't punish you or keep track of how good or "bad" you are.

I first encountered Amida when i was 18. A good friend of mine had become a Nichiren Buddhist. I was visiting my sister in California, and she had a book about Buddhism called "The Teaching of the Buddha." I read it, and was captivated, yet confused. Who was this Buddha called Amida? Shakyamuni buddha I'd heard about, and the Nichiren Buddhists claimed that Nichiren was the absolute, Universal, Eternal Buddha. But here was a Buddha new to me....a Buddha who lived in a beautiful Pure Land, a Buddha who out of incomprehensible compassion, hade made 48 vows not to enter Nirvana until ALL beings in the universe had been saved from Samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death. All you had to become a Buddha was to say His name, and upon your death, you'd be born into the Pure land and instantly become a Buddha yourself. I uttered the Nembutsu for the first time....Namu Amida Butsu.

Needless to say, I became a Nichiren Buddhist along with most of my friends./ We were all young and seeking. I practiced the buddhism of this sect until about 1999, when I finally became fed ulp with the Nichiren Shoshu/Soka Gakai feud, and the warped theology of the sect, namely that Nichiren was the Universal Buddha. I'll never forget how I felt when I first started chanting the BVuddha's name. It was like warm, nourishing sunlight illuminating a dark, dreary tomb. I felt compassion, serrenity, and a calmness I'd never known. Finally, everything seemed right. I knew that this...THIS was Buddhism!

I have just begun chanting again. My life took a terrible turn about 8 years ago. It's taken me that long to come back from the living death I was trapped in. I feel alive again...I have hope. Every day I wake up in the light and love of my Amida, bathed in his boundless compassion.