Which Dharma Practice Should I Focus On?

pict38Question: How should one go about selecting an appropriate Buddhist practice to focus on?

Answer: (The following answer assumes the enquirer to already have some basic Buddhist knowledge, while not having in-depth knowledge of all Buddhist practices, which is why the question was asked. We need to note that those who are already certain of what practice to focus on will not ask this question, though it is perfectly natural to ask this question occasionally, at times of uncertainty.)

According to many great Dharma masters, the very moment one is uncertain or hesitant of which Dharma practice to focus upon, the Pure Land method should be learnt. This is very good pragmatic advice indeed because of various reasons, such as these:

[1] We do not know how long this precious human rebirth will last – which means that the matter of highest urgency and importance is to ensure we can secure the safest and best of rebirths for furthering mastery of the Dharma to break free of rebirth.

[2] The best destination of rebirth must necessarily be the one that leads to Buddhahood the most swiftly with 100% guarantee. Such a destination must be a Pure Land, an ideal institute of learning created and sustained by a Buddha.

[3] As Amituofo’s Pure Land is the best Pure Land, as designed after reviewing 210 billion other Pure Lands, and as ‘painstakingly’ praised by all Buddhas of all directions in the Amitabha Sutra, it is highly recommended to learn more about the Amituofo Pure Land teachings.

The above advice applies for now – till one has mastered the fundamental Pure Land teachings, after which one might decide to learn other Dharma methods. The above is wise, compared with alternative options of taking one’s own sweet time to explore various Dharma methods – be it randomly or ‘systematically’ – because, as above, one might die any time, without being well-practised in any method. While the advice might seem sectarian, it is not so in the sense that when one learns any Dharma method well, one will come to realise how it is interconnected with other teachings too.

Master Yinshun also advises accordingly in ‘The Way to Buddhahood’ (p.249) – ‘If, therefore, one is timid and finds it difficult to practise the Bodhisattva-way, [Does this not describe most of us?] fearing that one will fall into the Two Vehicles [of Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, whose goals are focused on self-liberation instead of liberation of all beings] or that following the karmic forces will cause one to drift apart from the Buddha Way [to Buddhahood], then chanting Amitabha Buddha [Amituofo] is most secure! It is a wonderfully skilful means that can best embrace and protect those sentient beings who are beginners so that they do not lose their faith.’

(From p.246:) ‘… the Buddha with his infinite skill taught a special skilful means to embrace and protect [the] timid]…, so that they would not lose faith and would enter the Great Vehicle [towards Buddhahood]. This is the doctrine of the easy path [of self-power with other-power, as in the Pure Land method of faithful vow and practice of mindfulness of Amituofo to be reborn in his Pure Land]… Nagarjuna…: …”The Buddha Dharma has infinite entrances; just like paths in the world, some are difficult and some are easy: walking on land is hard while riding a boat in a waterway is pleasant. The Bodhisattva-way is the same: either one proceeds diligently with the difficult ascetic deeds or one quickly attains the stage of avivartin [avaivartika: a Bodhisattva who only progresses towards Buddhahood without retrogression] by the skilfully easy deeds that rely on faith.” The easy path depends upon the faithful vow to enter the stream of the Buddha Dharma… We should see this in the Sastras of Nagarjuna and Asvaghosa: “Beginning to study this Dharma, sentient beings wish to seek the right belief but their minds are weak… They should know that the Tathagata [Buddha] had special methods to embrace and protect their faith.”‘

Related Article:
Doing Window-Shopping for Dharma Doors

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!