General Articles Translations

Brief On Four Categories (四料简)


– 永明禅师 (净宗六祖永明延寿大师) 

With Chan and without Pure Land practice, nine out of ten go the wrong way.
If the negative realms manifest, suddenly and swiftly one might follow. (1)

Without Chan and with Pure Land practice, ten thousand out of ten thousand go the right way.
If one meets Amitabha Buddha, why be anxious that one will not awaken? (2)

With Chan and with Pure Land practice, one is like a tiger wearing horns,

In this life a teacher of humans, in future a Buddha or Patriarch. (3)

Without Chan and without Pure Land practice, metal beds and bronze pillars await.

For ten thousand kalpas and a thousand lives, with no one to rely. (4)

– Chan Master Yongming
(Sixth Pure Land Patriarch Great Master Yongming Yanshou)

Combinations of Chan and Pure Land Practice
(A Simplified Explanation)

  1. This describes the possible great risk of practising meditation misguidedly with self-power, while not having the other-power of Pure Land practice as a ‘backup plan’ for securing a safe rebirth to continue practice of the Dharma.
  2. This describes the great security that Pure Land practice offers when practised well, leading to meeting Amitabha Buddha and being able to learn the path to enlightenment from him.
  3. This describes how mastering both Chan and Pure Land practices creates great additional advantages, leading to the ability to share the Dharma with others, and to eventually become fully enlightened.
  4. This describes the worst-case scenario of doing evil while not doing any Dharma practice, thus being reborn into the hells for a long time without any refuge (due to great negative karma).

An Update for Our Times?

There is this recent ‘saying’ – 古人修行万修万人去,现代人念佛万修一二去。It means – ‘When the ancients practise for birth in Pure Land, ten thousand out of ten thousand go. When modern people practise mindfulness of Buddha, [only] one or two out of ten thousand go.’ The above is possibly so as the ancients lived in the True Dharma Age and/or the Dharma Semblence Age, when their general spiritual capacity was much better than those of our times in the present Dharma-Diminishing Age.

This should be seen as a serious reminder to not assume we can be born in Pure Land without adequate faith, aspiration and practice. That said, ‘one or two out of ten thousand’ is NOT an actual statistic and the Pure Land practice is definitely still particularly effective in our day and age, as mentioned clearly by the Buddha and many great masters. Even if one does not reach Pure Land at the end of this life, it is important to do one’s best to attempt doing so, as this would increase our chances of reaching Pure Land in the life after the next. If ten thousand practise well, ten thousand will definitely reach Pure Land. Thus, Great Master Yongming’s teaching will always be true.

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