Monday, March 30, 2009

Forty Eight Vows of Amitabha Buddha

These are the 48 Great vows that Dharmakara made before he ascended to Buddhahood:

1."Provided I become a Buddha, if in my Buddha-land there should be either hell, or the animal state of existence, or the realm of hungry ghosts, then may I not attain enlightenment.

2."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings born in my Buddha-land should retrogress into the three evil realms, then may I not attain enlightenment.

3."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings born in my Buddha-land are not all of the color of genuine gold, then may I not attain enlightenment.

4."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings who are born in my land are not all of identical appearance, without any distinction of noble looks or ugliness, then may I not attain enlightenment.

5."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings born in my land are not possessed of the supernormal ability to remember their previous lives, and the ability to know the events of of a hundred thousand nayuta years of kalpas in the past, then may I not attain enlightenment.

6."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings who are born in my land do not possess of the divine-eye, which can see a hundred thousand nayuta of Buddha-lands, then may I not attain enlightenment.

7."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings of my land do not possess the divine-ear, which can hear the Teachings of a hundred thousand kotis of nayuta of Buddhas, or do not faithfully observe those Teachings, then may I not attain enlightenment

8."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings of my land do not all possess the intuitive-mind, which knows the thoughts of all beings of a hundred thousand kotis of nayuta of Buddha-lands, then may I not attain enlightenment.

9."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings of my land do not all possess the heavenly -step, which can of one thought travel over a hundred thousand kotis of nayuta of Buddha-countries in the shortest fraction of a moment, then may I not attain enlightenment.

10."Provided I become a Buddha, if there should arise in the minds of any beings in my land the idea of selfishness and covetous thoughts, even with regard to their own bodies, then may I not attain enlightenment.

11."Provided I become a Buddha, if the beings of my land do not all firmly abide in a concentrated state of meditation and equanimity (samadhi) until they have reached nirvana, then may I not attain enlightenment.

12."Provided I become a Buddha, if my light is limited in such a way that it cannot illuminate a hundred thousand nayuta of kotis of Buddha-lands, then may I not attain enlightenment.

13."Provided I become a Buddha, if the length of my life is limited, even to a hundred thousand nayuta of kotis of kalpas, then may I not attain enlightenment.

14."Provided I become a Buddha, if any being is able to count the number of innumerable pupils in my land -- even if it takes a hundred thousand nayuta of kotis of kalpas for all the beings of three million worlds and the whole triple universe, after becoming Pratyeka-Buddhas, to count that number -- then may I not attain enlightenment.

15."Provided I become a Buddha, if the lives of the beings in my land are not eternal, except by their own free will whenever they choose to pass away from life, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

16."Provided I become a Buddha, there will be no evil or sinful existence in my land; even its very name will be unknown. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

17."Provided I become a Buddha, if the innumerable Buddhas of the worlds of ten quarters do not glorify my name, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

18."Provided I become a Buddha, if any sentient being in the ten quarters who hears my name and is thus awakened to the highest faith and aspires toward rebirth in my land, recollects that thought for as few as ten times, that being will be reborn there, with the exception of those who have committed the five grave offenses, or who have blasphemed the Dharma. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

19."Provided I become a Buddha, then at the moment of death of any sentient being in the ten quarters who has directed his thoughts towards the Bodhi and has cultivated his stock of various merits with a fervent desire for rebirth in my land, if I do not appear with an assembly of retinue before him, then may I not attain enlightenment.

20."Provided I become a Buddha, if any sentient being of ten quarters hears my name and then constantly longs for my land and cultivates various essential merits for the purpose of realizing his earnest wish to be born in my country, and then fails to attain that wish, then may I not attain enlightenment.

21."Provided I become a Buddha, if any sentient being in the ten quarters is not endowed with a glorious body perfected with the thirty-two attributes (laksanani) of a great being, then may I not attain enlightenment.

22."Provided I become a Buddha, the Bodhisattvas whose activities have surpassed the stage of ordinary beings, who practice the universal virtue of Universal Worthy Boddhisatva, and who come to be born in my land will be subject to that one birth only, and then will become Buddha-elect (ekajatipratibuddhas), with the exception of those who, by their own free will, wish to remain in the stage of Bodhisattvahood to serve the Buddhas of ten quarters for the sake of delivering various beings. Then they will wear the armor of their vows and will travel to all worlds, performing their Bodhisattva's duties and accumulating their stock of merit, converting the various beings whose numbers are as great as the grains of sand of the River Ganges to the highest perfect knowledge. Otherwise may I not attain enlightenment.

23."Provided I become a Buddha, if those Bodhisattvas in my land, through the Grace of the Buddha, are not able to serve all the Buddhas throughout the countless nayuta of Buddha-worlds within a less than a moment, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

24."Provided I become a Buddha, if any Bodhisattva in my land wishes to use his stock of merit to produce any object to be used before the Buddhas, and if such an object does not appear before him to his satisfaction, then may I not attain enlightenment.

25."Provided I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land are not able to preach the law of wisdom to completion, then may I not attain enlightenment.

26."Provided I become a Buddha, if any Bodhisattva in my land does not possess a golden body as strong as the diamond of Narayana, then may I not attain enlightenment.

27."Provided I become a Buddha, the heavenly beings and the various properties produced in my land shall all be of supreme beauty and shall abound in boundless quantity, and in an infinity of various forms. If any being therein, even one who even possesses the divine-eye, is able to perceive all the appellations and quantity of such beauties, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

28."Provided I become a Buddha, if any Bodhisattva of my land who possesses even the slightest stock of merit does not perceive the boundless shining beauty of the Bodhi-trees of my sanctuary, their height being at least four million miles, then may I not attain enlightenment.

29."Provided I become a Buddha, if the Bodhisattvas of my land do not all possess the wisdom of eloquent oration after having read, recited, and observed the Dharma of the Sutras, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

30."Provided I become a Buddha, if the Bodhisattvas of my land are limited in the wisdom of their oration, then may I not attain enlightenment.

31."When I have obtained the Buddhahood, if my land is not so reflective and raidant that it reflects the miniatures of the innumerable, inconceivable and boundless Buddha-worlds in all the ten quarters as clearly as one's face is seen in a bright mirror, then may I not attain enlightenment.

32."After I have obtained Buddhahood, there shall be in my land magnificent palaces towering up from the ground to the void, also lakes, winding streams, blossoming trees, and myriad other properties which are compounded of various jewels and thousands of kinds of perfumes, minutely embellished in the most wondrous state, surpassing all heavenly and human worlds. And the scent of perfumes shall thoroughly pervade the worlds of ten quarters in such a way that when Bodhisattvas smell them, their minds are directed to Bodhi. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

33."When I obtain the Buddhahood, if the body of any sentient being in the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds in any of the ten quarters is touched by the rays of my splendor, and if that being's body and mind do not then become gentle and peaceful, in a state that is far more sublime than those of the gods and men, then may I not attain enlightenment.

34."When I obtain Buddhahood, if the beings of boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds do not attain the "Endurance of Nirvanic Life" (ajatah sarvadharmah) of Bodhisattva, and the deep knowledge of "Adharanamudro" (or dharani) afterhearing my name, then may I not attain enlightenment.

35."When I obtain Buddhahood, women in boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds across the ten quarters will hear my name and will thereby been awakened in faith and joyful aspiration. Turning their minds towards Bodhi, they will dislike their own female lives, and then, when they are born again, in their next life they will be reborn in male bodies. Otherwise may I not attain enlightenment.

36.When I obtain Buddhahood, the Bodhisattvas of boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds across the ten quarters, having heard my name, after their death [in their next life] will still continue their Bodhisattva-duty until they have obtained Buddhahood. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

37.When I obtain Buddhahood, the heavenly beings of the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds across the ten quarters, having heard my name, will worship me with prostrate reverence, and will joyfully and faithfully perform their Bodhisattva-duty, and will be honored by gods and men. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

38.When I obtain the Buddhahood, the heavenly beings of my land, should they desire a garment, will be able to perceive themselves, as quick as thought, covered by apparitionally produced costumes, excellent to their satisfaction, worthy to be praised by the Buddha, without the work of sewing, washing, dying, and so on. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

39."When I attain the Buddhahood, if the heavenly beings of my land do not enjoy happiness as great as that of the holy bhikkhus, then may I not attain enlightenment.

40."When I attain Buddhahood, if the Bodhisattvas of my land wish to see the boundless, holy, pure Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters, they will at once behold them from the jewel-trees as though their faces were being reflected in a highly burnished, brilliant mirror. Otherwise, may I not attain the enlightenment.

41."When I attain the Buddhahood, if the Bodhisattvas of other worlds, after having heard my name, suffer from any diminution in the functional powers and are not endowed with all sense-organs in completion before reaching the Buddhahood, then may I not attain enlightenment.

42."When I obtain the Buddhahood, if the Bodhisattvas in other Buddha-lands whohear my name do not all attain, in one moment of thought, the pure samadhi of emancipation from which they could serve innumerable and inconceivable number of Buddhas [Tathagatas], or if their of their samadhi should come to an end meanwhile, then may I not attain enlightenment.

43."After I have obtained the Buddhahood, if any Bodhisattva of another land hears my name, that Bodhisattva will, after death, be reborn as a member of a noble family if he or she so desires. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

44."When I obtain the Buddhahood, the Bodhisattvas of other lands, having heard my name, will all obtain a combination of full virtues and will joyfully perform their Bodhisattva-duty. Otherwise, may I not attain enlightenment.

45."When I have obtain Buddhahood, all Bodhisattvas of other lands who hear my name will obtain the samantanugata (the thoroughly and equal samadhi in a fixed state of meditation). Through that samadhi, they will see innumerable and inconceivable Buddhas constantly until they have obtained the Buddhahood. Otherwise may I forbear from obtaining enlightenment.

46."When I obtain Buddhahood, the Bodhisattvas of my land shall be able to hear the Teaching of the Dharma whenever they desire. (The voices of teaching will present themselves naturally to their ears). Otherwise may I refrain from attaining enlightenment.

47."When I obtain Buddhahood, if Bodhisattvas of other lands, after having heard my name, do not immediately reach the state of never turning back from Bodhi, then I will refrain from attaining enlightenment.

48."When I have obtained Buddhahood, if Bodhisattvas of other lands who hear my name, do not reach the first, second, and third degrees of Dharma-endurance immediately, or if they turn back from the Buddha Dharma, then I will refrain from attaining enlightenment.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mahayana Meditations

"Chant Namo Amituofo"

All beings possess the potential of achieving the qualities of a Buddha. However, sentient beings are so greatly blocked by their own karmic obstacles from attaining Buddhahood.

A Buddha's mind, in essence, is equal to that of an ordinary being. However, a Buddha has a clear mind without any greed, anger, and ignorance, whereas, an ordinary being has a deluded one. This makes an ordinary being different from a Buddha.

The Western Pure Land created by Buddha Amitabha provides the best opportunity to become a Buddha, for those with great karmic obstacles.

The teaching given in the Infinite Life Sutra shows us the way to single-mindedly contemplate Buddha Amitabha and to reach the Pure Land.

Amitabha (Skrt) is a Buddha's name, primarily meaning Infinite Life. "Infinite Life" is the most important meaning within "Amitabha." Others include infinite light, boundless wisdom, virtue, talent, etc. * "Amitabha" virtually encompasses every word from the Infinite Life Sutra.

To be enlightened, one first generates the Bodhi mind. Generating a Bodhi mind is vowing to attain Buddhahood so that one can help all sentient beings.

Great Master Ou-I stated that vowing to be born into the Western Pure Land is the supreme Bodhi mind.

Either worldly or spiritual Dharma is not real but illusive. Only the Western Pure Land is real as indicated by infinite life, which is the most important of all infinities. With it, one can enjoy all that is wonderful and magnificent. A truly awakened person will sincerely be mindful of Buddha Amitabha from night to day and day to night.

The Pure Land method is the simplest and easiest without fixed forms. It is up to the practitioner to decide what is most suitable for him or her.

In The Diamond Sutra, Venerable Sariputra had raised two questions. First, where should our minds dwell? Second, how do we overcome our wandering minds?

The answer is simple. In the Pure Land School, dwelling in mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha overcomes our wandering thoughts.

How to chant the Buddha's name? Silently or aloud? Four syllables (Amitabha) or six (Namo Amitabha)?

Chanting the Buddha's name aloud helps to suppress afflictions. When we chant aloud, we can chase away wandering thoughts and drowsiness thus concentrating our mind.

When we are alert, we can chant silently but continuously. We need to know which is most fitting.

There is no fixed form in chanting the Buddha's name, but there is a basic principle, to let our mind become quiet, peaceful and without wandering thoughts. This is one of the purposes in chanting the Buddha's name.

We can do walking meditation while chanting. When we feel tired, we can sit and continue chanting. If we feel stiff when sitting, we may get up to walk or prostrate. In this way, we can adjust our body accordingly.

The more we chant and are mindful of Buddha Amitabha, the less our wandering thoughts will arise and the purer our mind will become, and the more wisdom we will attain. If not so, then something is incorrect in our way of practice. Therefore, we need to know how to harmonize our body and mind to keep our mind peaceful and quiet, and our body active and healthy.

The power of visualization is tremendous. Everything in the universe is derived from one's mind. Constant contemplation of the Buddha leads to becoming a Buddha, whereas a mind constantly harboring ignorance, greed and anger leads one to the three lower realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hells, respectively.

Chanting only one Buddha's name, Amitabha, contributes to the benefits of purifying one's mind and of being born into the Western Pure Land within the shortest period.

The title Infinite Life Sutra clearly explains that one chants the Buddha's name with a pure, non-discriminating and awakened mind.

On the other hand, one uses the chanting method to attain a pure, non-discriminating and awakened mind. The chanting enhances this state of mind, which in turn enhances further the chanting.

Buddha Amitabha is a Buddha within one's self-nature. His world also appears in one's mind. Everything essentially is a reflection of and cannot be separated from one's true nature. In order to attain a pure mind, one must overcome the internal obstacles of worry, delusion and habit accumulated over aeons of lifetimes, and the external obstacles of the enticements of too many adverse conditions which surround us. It is just a matter of thought whether we remain in or transcend the cycle of birth and death.

In order to eradicate the roots of birth and death, the first priority is to sever afflictions and then vow to go to the Western Pure Land. Once we sever our afflictions and attain Buddha Name Mindfulness Samadhi, we are certain to go to the Pure Land. We need to set this as our most important goal in this life.

Buddha Amitabha's unsurpassable forty-eight vows were generated gradually during Dharmakara's hundred billion years of study and five aeons of cultivation. He condensed and perfected all that he learned from his study and cultivation of the Buddhaland in the ten directions to create the ideal land without any negative elements.

When Buddha Amitabha made his selections to create his land, he used a single mind, a true mind without wandering, discriminating, attaching or deluded thoughts. With this true mind, every single choice would be perfect. Good choices are made when one's mind is truly at peace. A true Pure Land cultivator chants the Buddha's name with a sincere and pure mind. It is said in sutras that no bad spirits would dare to come within forty miles of a true cultivator. When one's body and mind are pure, Buddha Amitabha and all other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will care for and protect this person.

Note : the above texts are extracted from the Commentary on Infinite Life Sutra by Ven. Master Chin Kung.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This set of symbols is very popular in Tibet, but is also known in Sanskrit as 'Ashtamangala', ashta means eight and mangala means auspicious.

The Umbrella or parasol (chhatra) embodies notions of wealth or royalty, for one had to be rich enough to possess such an item, and further, to have someone carry it. It points to the "royal ease" and power experienced in the Buddhist life of detachment. It also symbolises the wholesome activities to keep beings from harm (sun) like illness, harmful forces, obstacles and so forth, and the enjoyment of the results under its cool shade.

The Golden Fish (matsya) were originally symbolic of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna, but came to represent good fortune in general, for Hindus, Jain and Buddhists. Within Buddhism it also symbolises that living beings who practice the dharma need have no fear to drown in the ocean of suffering, and can freely migrate (chose their rebirth) like fish in the water.

The Treasure Vase (bumpa) is a sign of the inexhaustible riches available in the Buddhist teachings, but also symbolises long life, wealth, prosperity and all the benefits of this world. (There is even a practice which involves burying or storing treasure vases at certain locations to generate wealth, eg. for monasteries or dharma centers.)

The Lotus (padma) is a very important symbol in India and of Buddhism. It refers to the complete purification of body, speech and mind, and the blossoming of wholesome deeds in liberation. The lotus refers to many aspects of the path, as it grows from the mud (samsara), up through muddy water it appears clean on the surface (purification), and finally produces a beautiful flower (enlightenment). The white blossom represents purity, the stem stands for the practice of Buddhist teachings which raise the mind above the (mud of) worldly existence, and gives rise to purity of mind.
An open blossom signifies full enlightenment; a closed blossom signifies the potential for enlightenment.

From the website Exotic India Art:

"The lotus does not grow in Tibet and so Tibetan art has only stylized versions of it. Nevertheless, it is one of Buddhism's best recognized motifs since every important deity is associated in some manner with the lotus, either being seated upon it or holding one in their hands.
The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment. Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface.
Thus says the Lalitavistara, 'the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the lotus in the muddy water which does not adhere to it.' According to another scholar, 'in esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that is why the Buddha sits on a lotus bloom.'

Significantly, the color of the lotus too has an important bearing on the symbology associated with it:

1). White Lotus (Skt. pundarika; Tib. pad ma dkar po): This represents the state of spiritual perfection and total mental purity (bodhi). It is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her perfect nature, a quality which is reinforced by the color of her body.
2). Red Lotus (Skt. kamala; Tib: pad ma chu skyes): This signifies the original nature and purity of the heart (hrdya). It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other qualities of the heart. It is the flower of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
3). Blue Lotus (Skt. utpala; Tib. ut pa la): This is a symbol of the victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge. Not surprisingly, it is the preferred flower of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom.
4). Pink Lotus (Skt. padma; Tib. pad ma dmar po): This the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. Thus naturally it is associated with the Great Buddha himself."

Teoh Eng Soon, in his book The Lotus in the Buddhist Art of India, traces the first appearance of the lotus in Buddhist art to the columns built by Asoka in the 3rd Century BCE. However, the lotus is found frequently in the early Buddhist texts.

The Conch (shankha), which is also used as a horn, symbolises the deep, far reaching and melodious sound of the teachings, which is suitable for all disciples at it awakens them from the slumber of ignorance to accomplish all beings' welfare.

The Auspicious or Endless Knot (shrivatsa) is a geometric diagram which symbolises the nature of reality where everything is interrelated and only exists as part of a web of karma and its effect. Having no beginning or end, it also represents the infinite wisdom of the Buddha, and the union of compassion and wisdom. Also, it represents the illusory character of time, and long life as it is endless.

The Victory Banner (dhvaja) symbolises the victory of the Buddha's teachings over death, ignorance, disharmony and all the negativities of this world, and victory over. The roofs of Tibetan monasteries are often decorated with victory banners of different shapes and sizes.

The Dharma-Wheel (Dharmachakra); it is said that after Siddharta Gautama achieved enlightenment, Brahma came to him, offered a Dharma-Wheel and requested the Buddha to teach. It represents the Buddhist teachings (see above).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Short Prayer for Rebirth in the Pure Land

I wish to be reborn in the Western Pure Land.

I wish to have as my parents a lotus blossom in nine grades.

When the blossom opens, I will see the Buddha and realize that dharmas never arise,

And I will have as my companions the Bodhisattvas who never regress.

Long Prayer for Rebirth in the Pure Land

I single-mindedly take refuge in Amitābha Buddha in the World of Ultimate Bliss. Illuminate me with Your pure light and draw me in with Your loving, kind vows! Thinking only of You, I now call the name of the Tathāgatha. For the sake of the Bodhi Way, I supplicate to be reborn in Your Pure Land.

Before this Buddha attained Buddhahood in the past, he made a vow: "Suppose there are sentient beings that desire to be reborn in my land and think in earnest only ten thoughts of belief and delight. If they should fail to be reborn there, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment."

Through these causes and conditions for thinking of this Buddha, I have gained entrance into the Tathāgata's ocean of great vows. By virtue of the power of the Buddha's lovingkindness, my sins are expunged and my roots of goodness growing stronger. Upon the ending of my life, I will know the coming of my time. My body will have no illness or suffering. My heart will have no greed or attachments. My mind will not be demented but be peaceful as if in meditative concentration. The Buddha and a multitude of holy beings, holding a golden lotus-borne platform in their hands, will come to receive me. In the instant of one thought, I will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. When the lotus blossom opens, I will see the Buddha. I will immediately hear the Buddha Vehicle, and my Buddha wisdom will suddenly unfold. I will widely deliver sentient beings, fulfilling my bodhi vow.

Homage to all Buddhas of the past, present, and future, in the ten directions!
Homage to all Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas!
Homage to mahā-prajñā-pāramitā!
Repentance Prayer

The evil deeds I have committed with my body, voice, and mind are caused by greed, anger, and delusion, which are without a beginning in time. Before the Buddha I now supplicate for my repentance.
往昔所造諸惡業 皆由無始貪瞋癡 從身語意之所生 今對佛前求懺悔。

The evil deeds I have committed with my body, voice, and mind are caused by greed, anger, and delusion, which are without a beginning in time. I repent of all sins, the cause of hindrances.
往昔所造諸惡業 皆由無始貪瞋癡 從身語意之所生 一切罪障皆懺悔。

The evil deeds I have committed with my body, voice, and mind are caused by greed, anger, and delusion, which are without a beginning in time. I repent of all the roots of sin.
往昔所造諸惡業 皆由無始貪瞋癡 從身語意之所生 一切罪根皆懺悔。
Prayer for Transferring Merit

May the merit of my practice

Adorn Buddhas' Pure Lands,

Repay the fourfold kindness from above,

And relieve the sufferings of the three life-journeys below.

Universally wishing sentient beings,

Friends, foes, and karmic creditors,

All to activate the bodhi mind,

And all to be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pure Land Buddhism is based on the Pure Land sutras, first brought to China as early as 148 AD,[citation needed] when the Parthian monk Ān Shìgāo began translating sutras into Chinese at the White Horse Temple in the imperial capital of Luòyáng, during the Hàn dynasty. The Kushan monk Lokakśema, who arrived in Luòyáng two decades after An Shìgao, is often attributed[citation needed] with the earliest translations of the core sutras of Pure Land Buddhism. These sutras describe Amitābha and his heaven-like Pure Land, called Sukhāvatī.

The Buddha Amitābha, 13th century, Kamakura, Japan.Although Amitabha was mentioned or featured in a number of Buddhist sutras, the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life is often considered the most important and definitive. In this sutra, the Buddha describes to his assistant, Ānanda, how Amitabha, as an advanced monk named Dharmakara, made a great series of vows to save all beings, and through his great merit, created a realm called the Land of Bliss (Sukhavati).[4] This paradise would later come to be known as the Pure Land in Chinese translation.

Pure Land Buddhism played a small role in early Indian Buddhism, particularly the Mahayana branch, but first became prominent with the founding of a monastery upon the top of Mount Lushan by Hui-yuan in 402. It quickly spread throughout China and was systematised by a series of elite monastic thinkers, namely Tanluan, Daochuo, Shandao, and others. The religious movement spread to Japan and slowly grew in prominence. Hōnen (1133–1212) established Pure Land Buddhism as an independent sect in Japan, known as Jōdo Shu. Today Pure Land is, together with Chan (Zen), the dominant form of Buddhism in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Contemporary Pure Land traditions see Amitabha preaching the Dharma in his buddha-field (Sanskrit: buddhakṣetra), called the "Pure Land" (zh. 净土, pinyin jìngtǔ, jp. 浄土 jōdo, vi. Tịnh độ) or "Western Pureland" (Ch. 西天, pinyin xītiān), a region offering respite from karmic transmigration. The Vietnamese also use the term Tây Phương Cực Lạc (西方極樂) for "Western Land of Bliss", or more accurately, "Western Paradise". In such traditions, entering the Pure Land is popularly perceived as equivalent to the attainment of enlightenment. After practitioners attain enlightenment in the Pure Land, they have the choice of becoming a Buddha and entering nirvana or returning to any of the six realms as bodhisattvas to help all living beings in samsara.

Thus, adherents believe that Amitabha Buddha provided an alternate practice towards attaining enlightenment: the Pure Land. In Pure Land Buddhist thought, Enlightenment is difficult to obtain without the assistance of Amitabha Buddha, since people are now living in a degenerate era, known as the Age of Dharma Decline. Instead of solitary meditative work toward enlightenment, Pure Land Buddhism teaches that devotion to Amitabha leads one to the Pure Land, where enlightenment can be more easily attained.

In medieval East Asian culture, this belief was particularly popular among peasants and individuals who were considered "impure", such as hunters, fishermen, those who tan hides, prostitutes and so on. Pure Land Buddhism provided a way to practice Buddhism for those who were not capable of practicing other forms. In fact, in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life the Amitabha Buddha makes 48 vows, and the 18th Vow states that Amitabha will grant rebirth to his Pure Land anyone who can recite his name as little as 10 times. It also states, Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the right Dharma.

The Pure Land
The Pure Land is described in the Limitless Life Sutra as a land of beauty that surpasses all other realms. More importantly for the Pure Land practitioner, once one has been "born" into this land (birth occurs painlessly through lotus flowers), one will never again be reborn. In the Pure Land one will be personally instructed by Amitabha Buddha and numerous Bodhisattvas until one reaches full and complete enlightenment. In effect, being born into the Pure Land is akin to achieving enlightenment, through escaping samsara, the Buddhist concept of "the wheel of birth and death."

Pure Land Practice
Practitioners believe that chanting Amitābha Buddha's name, or the nianfo, during their current life allows them, at this life's end, to be received with their karma by Amitābha Buddha (帶業往生). The simplicity of this form of veneration has contributed greatly to its popularity throughout East Asia. This practice is called nembutsu in Japanese, or Buddha recitation, or "Being Mindful of the Buddha."

An alternate practise found in Pure Land Buddhism is meditation or contemplation of Amitābha or his Pure Land. The basis for this is found in the Contemplation Sutra, where The Buddha describes to Queen Vaidehi what Amitābha looks like and how to meditate upon him.[5] Visualization practises for Amitābha are more popular among esoteric Buddhist sects, such as Japanese Shingon Buddhism, while the nianfo is more popular among lay followers.

Some have claimed there is evidence of dying people going to the pure land, such as:

Knowing the time of death (預知時至) - some prepare by bathing and chanting the nianfo.

The "three saints in the west" (西方三聖) (Amitābha Buddha and the two bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara on his right and Mahāsthāmaprāpta on his left), appear and welcome the dying person. Visions of other buddhas or bodhisttvas are disregarded as they may be bad spirits disguising themselves, attempting to stop the person from entering the Pure Land.[6]

Leave sariras after cremation.

Relatives or friends may dream of the dying person.

The last part of the body to become cold is the top of the head (fontanel). In Buddhist teaching, souls who enter the Pure Land leave the body through the fontanel at the top of the skull. Hence, this part of the body stays warmer longer than the rest of the body. The Ba shi gui ju bu zhu (八識規矩補註)[7], reads: "to birth in saints the last body temperature in top of head, to deva in eyes, to human in heart, to hungry ghosts in belly, to animals in knee cap, to the hells-realm in sole of feet."

The dying person may demonstrate some, but not necessarily all, of these evidences. For example, their facial expression may be happy, but they may not demonstrate other signs, such as sarira and dreams.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Liberating Living Beings

A Buddhist practice of rescuing animals, birds, fish and so forth that are destined for slaughter or that are permanently
caged. They are released to a new physical and spiritual life. The practice exemplifies the fundamental Buddhist teaching
of compassion for all living beings.

A disciple of the Buddha must maintain a mind of kindness and cultivate the practice of liberating beings. He should reflect
thus: 'All male beings have been my father and all females have been my mother. There is not a single being who has not
given birth to me during my previous lives, hence all beings of the Six Destinies are my parents. Therefore, when a person
kills and eats any of these beings, he thereby slaughters my parents. Furthermore, he kills a body that was once my own, for
all elemental earth and water previously served as part of my body and all elemental fire and wind have served as my basic
substance. Therefore, I shall always cultivate the practice of liberating beings and in every life be reborn in the
eternally-abiding Dharma and teach others to liberate beings as well.'

Whenever a Bodhisattva sees a person preparing to kill an animal, he should devise a skilful method to rescue and protect
it, freeing it from its suffering and difficulties... (BNS I 162)

In China this practice was made popular by the Venerable Jr-Yi (see entry) and has continued to the present day.

Developing our Compassion by Liberating Living Beings

"Once a month at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we liberate animals destined for slaughter. We purchase them from the
wholesalers, bring them to some appropriate place, and let them go free. We recite mantras, sutras, and praises on their
behalf, so that they can hear them, and so that the merit of our recitation can be transferred to them. This traditional
Buddhist practice, called 'liberating living beings', has always been praised and honored by the sages and high masters.

"By liberating living beings, we also nurture compassion in our hearts. By not killing, we cultivate compassion. In letting
living creatures go, we also cultivate compassion. The compassion in our hearts grows greater every day until it becomes
as great as that of the greatly compassionate Bodhisattva Observer of the World's Sounds (Avalokiteshvara).

"Bodhisattva Observer of the World's Sounds did not kill living beings; she always liberated them, and so she has a greatly
compassionate heart. We should imitate the great kindness and compassion of Bodhisattva Observer of the World's Sounds
and liberate living beings. The principle is very logical: if you liberate life, you increase your compassion. Liberating
living beings is just liberating ourselves.. Why? Because we and all living beings are basically of one substance. We
should think this way: 'If someone put me in a cage, wouldn't I be uncomfortable? Wouldn't I wish that someone would let
me go? If I were put in jail, I would not want to stay there. Likewise, I don't like to see birds put in cages. This is because
living beings and I are of one substance. Since I feel this way, I want to liberate living beings.

"What is more, you don't know which living being was related to you in a past life. One might have been your father, or
your brother, or your sister. You can't know for sure. Perhaps they were your children, or your friends. Right now you
haven't gained the use of the Heavenly Eye or the Penetration of Past Lives, and so you don't know what kinds of causes and
effects belong to each animal; and yet, when you see these creatures, you feel uncomfortable and want to set them free.
Setting them free isn't a stupid thing to do by any means, as some people might think. It is an aspect of cultivation. There
isn't just one way to cultivate. There are eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors in cultivation, and every single door leads to
the realization of supreme enlightenment. Liberating living beings is one of them. We must be careful not to think of it as
'stupid'. If we have that kind of attitude, we will obstruct our own cultivation.

"I just said that we wouldn't want to be locked in jail. I will tell you the truth. This is not an analogy. Your own body is, in
fact, a cage! You are stuck in your own body and you are not yet able to get out of it. Until we have gained a very high level
of spiritual practice and wisdom, we will remain stuck in the cages that are our bodies. Only then will we have liberated
our own lives. That's the real liberation of the living. If we want to liberate our own lives, we must first liberate the lives
of those little creatures. The one kind of liberating the living helps the other kind.

"Liberating living beings is a very important aspect of Buddhist practice. But if one hasn't understood this yet, one might
think it a very ordinary affair. If we don't cultivate the one kind of liberating the living, we won't be able to obtain the other
kind. There are many changes and transformations, and so don't look upon this lightly. Liberating the living brings returns on
one's own efforts." (Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, PDS, May, 1985)

"Why do we liberate . . . [living creatures]? It is because if we ransom creatures that were destined to be slaughtered for
food and then set them free, then they can live out their natural lifespans. This in turn enables the people who liberate the
living to enjoy a long life.

"Why are there wars in the world? It is because our collective killing karma is so heavy. If in this life I kill you, in the next
life, you'll kill me, and in the life after that I'll come back to kill you. This cycle of killing continues forever. People kill
animals and in their next life they become animals. The animals which they once killed now return as people to claim
revenge. This goes on and on. There is endless killing and bloodshed. When incidents of slaughter multiply until the
resentment can no longer be contained, they explode into massive world wars, with the resultant huge massacres and
horrendous destruction. On the battlefield, people are propelled by resentment and enmity that has accumulated during many
lifetimes, and they go absolutely berserk, lashing out at one another like savages. 'You kill one person? I'll kill ten!' They
take revenge on one another like that. Wars are the painful results of killing karma created in our past lives.

"Therefore, we liberate the living to diminish our killing karma. The more people engage in liberating the living, the less
killing they will do. Wars will proportionately decrease. We who cultivate these compassionate practices do not oppose
war: we just don't go to war. We don't kill but instead we set living creatures free. This is the true and ultimate way to
eliminate war. It is also a gateway to long life and health and to the eradication of disasters and illnesses. The merit and
virtue that one accumulates from liberating animals is boundless. It enables you to cause living beings to live out the full
extent of their natural lifespans. In addition, you benefit personally because illnesses are averted. As a result you enjoy
good health and are able to peacefully cultivate the Way.

"The purpose of liberating the living is to protect the lives of creatures. It is a Dharma-door that exemplifies the Buddha's
compassion. Everyone should protect living creatures and not abuse or slaughter them." (FAS Ch8 76-77)

"In liberating the living
You yourself will live long.
Health, riches and blessings
Will descend upon you, never-ending."
(CL II 15)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Six Character Great Bright Mantra


Significance of OM, MA, NI, PAD, ME, HUM

Go for refuge to the Buddha
Produce the aspiring enlightened mind.
Perfection of Generosity
Guard the vows of an auditor
Purify physical obscurations
Overcome the god demon
Cure the sickness of bad accumulation
Pacify all defilemnts
The Dharmadhatu wisdom arises
Freedom from the god's suffering of death and rebirth
Union of all the Buddha families, Mahakarunika, and Consort Sadaksari
Obtain the state of Sarva-dakini
Obtain the Dharma Body

Go for refuge to the Dharma
Produce the engaging enlightened mind
Perfection of Moral Conduct
Guard the vows of a bodhisattva
Purify vocal obscurations
Overcome the female demoness
Cure fever
Defeat nescience
The mirror wisdom arises
Freedom from the jealous gods' suffering of fighting
Buddha Vairocana and Consort Buddhalocana
Obtain the state of Buddha-dakini
Obtain the Enjoyment Body

Go for refuge to the Sangha
Produce the non-dual enlightened mind
Perfection of Patience
Guard the vows of fasting
Purify mental obscurations
Overcome the rgyal-gong demon
Cure wind diseases
Defeat anger
The equanimity wisdom arises
Freedom from the human suffering of change
Vajrasattva and Consort Samantabhadri
Obtain the state of Vajra-dakini
Obtain the Emanation Body

Go for refuge to the Guru
Produce the natural enlightened mind
Perfection of enthusiasm
Guard the vows of the layperson
Purify the obscurations of defilement
Overcome the local deity/naga demon
Cure mucous disease
Defeat pride
Discriminating wisdom arises
Freedom from the animals' suffering of service
Ratnasambhava and Consort Manaki
Obtain the state of Ratna-dakini
Obtain the Essence Body

Go for refuge to the Yidam
Produce the wisdom enlightened mind
Perfection of Meditation
Guard the vows of celibacy
Purify the obscurations of the traces
Overcome Mara and the Lord of Death
Cure arthritis
Eliminate desire
All-accomplishing wisdom arises
Freedom from the hungry ghosts' suffering of hunger and thirst
Buddha Amitabha and Consort Pandara-vasini
Obtain the state of Padma-dakini
Obtain the Enlightened Body

Go for refuge to the Dakinis
Produce the ultimate enlightened mind
Perfection of Discriminating Insight
Guard the tantric vows of a Knowledge Holder
Purify the obscurations to knowledge
Overcome the Raksa and Rahula demons
Cure bilious disease
Eliminate jealousy
Inherent wisdom arises
Freedom from the hell sufferings of hot and cold
Buddha Amoghasiddhi and Consort Samaya-tara
Obtain the state of the Karma-dakini
Obtain the unchanging Vajra-like Body


Benefits of Reciting OM MANI PADME HUM

by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM are like the infinite sky. Depending on how perfectly qualified one’s mind is and on one’s motivation, even reciting OM MANI PADME HUM one time can purify negative karma. For example, a fully ordained monk who has received all four defeats can completely purify that very heavy negative karma by reciting OM MANI PADME HUM one time. So it is very powerful.

Reciting One Thousand Mantras Each Day

In the teachings it is said the benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM are so many that the explanation will never finish. It is explained that if one recites OM MANI PADME HUM one thousand times every day, then one’s children up to seven generations will not be reborn in the lower realms. So if, for example, parents recite one thousand mantras every day then their children, their children’s children and so forth up to seven generations will never be reborn in the lower realms. So parents have quite a responsibility! This is one way that parents can benefit their children and grandchildren.

If one recites the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra one thousand times every day, then one’s body becomes blessed. So when a person who recites one thousand OM MANI PADME HUM every day goes into water, into a river or ocean for example, that water becomes blessed. Whoever that water touches fish, tiny or big animals, or tiny insects, the negative karma of all those sentient beings is purified and they do not get reborn in the lower realms.

If one recites one thousand OM MANI PADME HUM every day, then at the time of death, when the body is burnt, even the smoke that comes from it purifies the negative karma of whoever it touches or whoever smells it. The negative karma of those sentient beings to be reborn in the lower realms is purified.

Fifteen Major Benefits

There are fifteen major benefits, which are the same for both the long and the short mantra. Actually, there are so many benefits but if one can remember these fifteen, these are the most important, the integrated outlines.

1.In all lifetimes, one will meet with virtuous kings - religious kings like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other virtuous leaders - and by being in such a place where there is a virtuous king one will have much opportunity to practise Dharma.

2.One will always be reborn in virtuous places where there is a lot of Dharma practice, where there are lots of temples, where one can make lots of offerings, where there a lot of holy objects, statues, stupas and so forth. Being in a place where there are all these holy objects gives one the opportunity to practise Dharma, to create the cause of happiness, to accumulate merit. And being in a place where there are many in the city doing practice inspires oneself to practise Dharma, the cause of happiness.

3.One will always meet with fortunate times and good conditions, which will help your Dharma practice. Having many good things happen it inspires you to practise Dharma, to receive teachings and to meditate.

4.One will always be able to meet with virtuous friends.

5.One will always receive a perfect human body.

6.One’s mind will become familiar with the path, with virtue.

7.One will not allow one’s vows, one’s morality to degenerate.

8.People around you - family, Dharma students, people in the office, and so one - will be kind and harmonious with you.

9.You will always have wealth, the means of living.

10.You will always be protected and served by others.

11.Your wealth will not be stolen or taken away by others.

12.Whatever you wish will succeed.

13.You will always be protected by virtuous nagas and devas.

14.In all lifetimes, you will see Buddha and be able to hear the Dharma.

15.By listening to the pure Dharma, you will be able to actualise the profound meaning, emptiness.

It is said in the teachings that anybody who recites this mantra with compassion - devas or humans - will receive these virtues. In addition, the mantra has the power to heal many diseases and to protect from any harms.

The Compassionate Buddha manifesting in the form of the mantra leads us to enlightenment. In relation to the Holy Body of the Compassionate Buddha we make offerings, accumulate merit, purify and meditate. Then the Compassionate Buddha manifests in the form of the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM. Reciting this mantra unifies our negative karma and causes us to actualise the whole path from guru devotion through renunciation, bodhicitta, and emptiness up to the two stages of tantra. Then we are able to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment. That is how the mantra benefits us. It is the Compassionate Buddha’s holy speech manifesting in an external way in order to benefit us.