若有众生，If there are beings
闻是说者，who hear this [teaching],
应当发愿，they should vow [aspire]
生彼国土。to be born in that [Pure] Land [of Amituofo].
– 释迦牟尼佛 Śākyamuni Buddha
(佛说阿弥陀经 The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitā Buddha/ Amitābha Sūtra/
一切诸佛所护念经 The Sūtra Protected & Kept In Mind By All Buddhas)
[Reply letter to layman Wang Yu Mu by the 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition Great Master Yin Guang (1861-1940); regarded in the Mahayana circle as a manifestation of Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva]:
The main tenet of Zen [Chan tradition] is to see one’s Original Nature, while the teachings of Pure Land are [to nurture] Faith [in Amituofo], Vows [Aspiration] and [Practice of wholehearted] Reciting [or silent ‘mindfulness of’] the Buddha’s name [Amituofo; Amita(bha) Buddha] to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. [Three Provisions: http://purelanders.com/2010/04/01/the-three-provisions-of-faith-aspiration-practice/]
… on close examination, those of high capacities are few and far between [in this Dharma-Diminishing Age with the Five Defilements], while those of moderate and low capacities form the vast majority. This being the case, failing to teach people to develop Faith and Vows seeking rebirth in the Pure Land, while advising them to meditate on the Buddha’s name [only as a koan (gong an); mondo (hua tou)] is utterly detrimental.
This is because, while awakening to the Way through [koan] meditation on the Buddha’s name would be a fortunate development [if accomplished at all], an utterly sincere Vow for rebirth in the Pure Land would still be necessary [to truly benefit from the Amituofo’s blessings for uninterrupted, expedited and non-retrogressible spiritual progress towards Buddhahood].
Meanwhile, if meditation is unsuccessful and the mind constantly grasps at the koan ‘who is reciting the Buddha’s name,’ correspondence between the practitioner and the Buddha will be extremely diﬃcult to realize and the beneﬁt of the [Buddha’s] “welcoming and escorting” Vow will be lost.
Those who really know ‘who is reciting the Buddha’s name’ are precisely those who have already awakened and clearly seen their True Nature. Nowadays, how many practitioners can meditate to the point of awakening to the Way? However, let us not speak about others. Even you and your friends have not reached that level. How do I know? It is because if you had, you would never have dared to make such [seriously wrong] statements as these in your letter: ‘the Pure Land method is an expedient [skillful means only] for ordinary people of limited capacities…; not knowing who is reciting the Buddha’s name is not reciting in a mature way…; reciting a hundred thousand times a day has no relationship to the issue of Birth and Death…’
[Correction of wrong statements above: The Pure Land method is ‘the most skilful of all skilful means’ for most beings at any point in time, as called by the 9th Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition Great Master Ou Yi. If one already knows “who is reciting”, one does not need in the first place. Diligent Practice in everyday life is needed to better ensure reaching Pure Land, which easier resolves the issue of Birth and Death.]
In truth, while your intention is to beneﬁt yourself and others equally, through your words you have not only erred yourself, you have led others astray as well. From now on, please desist from such talk. Otherwise, you will slam the door on and bury the all-embracing [Pure Land] method of the Buddhas to rescue sentient beings everywhere – preventing this method from being known far and wide. Such a transgression is tantamount to vilifying the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha [as all Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas teach and praise the Pure Land path]. You should be careful indeed!
Since your understanding of the Dharma is not skillfully adapted to people’s capacities… it is, in the end, a one-sided attachment – and a great mistake! Not realizing this, you think that you have correctly understood the subtle meaning of the Dharma and therefore seek my certiﬁcation. This monk… would not dare to commend, acquiesce in and support such a request, which would cause all of us to fall into the error of vilifying the Three Treasures [Triple Gem]!… I hope that you will reﬂect deeply on this letter.
Do Not Confuse Nianfo (Mindfulness Of Amituofo) With Other Practices
Danger Of Slandering Dharma Doors
The Pure Land Path Is For Everyone
Zen Master’s Perspective Of The Pure Land Teachings
Buddha Mindfulness Is Not Inferior
The Noble Path And The Pure Land Path
Pure Land Zen, Zen Pure Land: Letters From Patriarch Yin Guang [Letter 8]
Translated by Master Th’ich Thi’en T’am, et al [with annotations above by Shen Shi’an]