Translations

Is Great Master Shandao The Only Pure Land Patriarch? 只有善导大师是净土祖师吗?

大安法师(东林寺方丈)于成都大慈寺(庚寅年五月)
Dharma Master Da’an (Abbot of Donglin Monastery) at Chengdu’s Da’ci Monastery (May 2010) 

问:有人说净土宗在中国只有【净土宗二祖】善导大师一人,其他十二位祖师都不是专修净土的,不能成为中国净土宗祖师。这种说法对吗?他们说真正的净土宗已传到了日本,唐代后中国没有真正的净土宗,这对吗?

Question: Some say that for the Pure Land Tradition in China, there is only [the Pure Land Tradition’s Second Patriarch] Great Master Shandao [who was a manifestation of Amituofo; Amitabha Buddha], this one person, [who is a Pure Land Patriarch, as the] other 12 Patriarchs all do not focus on cultivating the Pure Land path, and should not be considered as the Chinese Pure Land Tradition’s Patriarchs. Is saying so right? They say that the true Pure Land Tradition had already spread to Japan, that after the Tang Dynasty, China has no true Pure Land Tradition. Is this right?

答:大家说说,这对不对呀?我们中国十三代祖师是经过历史时间考验的。祖师他们是解行并进,明了心性,得念佛三昧,同时自行化他的德业非常盛大,被后人一致推举出来的。这里并没有像禅宗那种衣钵的传承。实际上到六祖慧能,他也就没有传衣钵了。

Answer: Can everyone say if this is right or wrong? China’s 13 generations of Patriarchs have gone through the test of time historically. The Patriarchs together cultivated understanding and practice, to realise the nature of their minds, to attain Samadhi (concentration) from mindfulness of Buddha, and at the same time, their virtuous actions from personal practices to transform others were very great, thus by later generations unanimously chosen [to be Patriarchs]. This is not like the Chan Tradition’s kind of lineage, of passing the robe and bowl. Actually, up the 6th [Chan Patriarch] Great Master Huineng, he also did not pass the robe and bowl [further].

只有善导大师一人才够净土宗祖师的资格,这种说法是不能成立的,是非常片面的、非常僵化的一种说法。我们说佛法,刚才讲四悉檀的因缘了。这些菩萨祖师来到我们世间,一定要应众生的机缘来施设他的教化,来体现他的一种教学方法——不是一个纯客观的东西。

That only Great Master Shandao, this one person had enough qualifications to be a Pure Land Patriarch, saying so cannot be established. This is a very one-sided, very rigid [and exaggerated] way of speaking. When we speak of the Buddha’s teachings, (just now) mentioned were the Four Methods Of Teaching [(Four Siddhantas) which accord to the listener’s level: [1] worldly method (世间悉檀), [2] individual method (各各为人悉檀), [3] curative method (对治悉檀) and [4] (ultimate) method of the first principle (第一义悉檀)] as causes and conditions. These Bodhisattva Patriarchs who came into our world, must respond to sentient beings’ capacities and conditions to establish their teachings to transform them, thus expressing their [various] methods of teaching. This is not a purely objective matter [that we can decide].

比如说东晋时候的【净土宗初祖】慧远大师,他作为净土宗第一代祖师,完全是名符其实的。他完成了什么大事因缘呢?东汉明帝以来净土宗的典籍,像《无量寿经》翻译了——已经有七八种,还有《般舟三昧经》这些。翻译之后,我们中国的四众弟子也有很多人在修习这个法门。但修行这个法门没有形成一种团体的广大影响力,往生者也是散见在各个记载当中。

For instance, speaking of the Eastern Jin period’s [Pure Land Tradition’s First Patriarch] Great Master Huiyuan, he as the Pure Land Tradition’s First Patriarch, is completely worthy of his namesake. What great matter’s cause and conditions did he accomplish? Since [the period of] the Eastern Han Dynasty’s Ming Emperor, the Pure Land Tradition’s canonical texts, such as the Immeasurable Life Sutra, was already translated seven to eight times [or more]. In addition, was the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra and such. After translation, many of China’s fourfold disciples [of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen] cultivated this Dharma door. However, cultivating practice of this Dharma door did not have great organisational power of influence, and those who attained rebirth [in Pure Land] were also [only] scatteredly seen, within separate records.

到了东晋的时候,这个净土经典翻译和修行已经经过了二三百年的时候,它就酝酿了一种新的高潮。但这个高潮的到来不能面向全社会推广,它有一个瓶颈。这个瓶颈还是出现在信心上:很难产生信心。净土经典虽然详细的介绍西方极乐世界依正莊严和往生的种种情形,但是我们地球的人都希望有证据。拿不出证据,很多人就还有怀疑;有怀疑,这个法门就会受到影响,就传播不开去。

Having reached the Eastern Jin Dynasty, since the Pure Land sutras’ translation and cultivation of practice [began in China], two to three hundred years had already passed by, with it brewing a new kind of peak. However, as with the arrival of this peak, it could not turn towards the direction of the whole of society to be [further] popularised, it had a bottleneck. This bottleneck still appeared, [due to lack of] Faith [in the practice], with it being difficult to generate Faith in. The Pure Land sutras, although [they already] detailedly introduced the Western Land Of Ultimate Bliss’ circumstantial and direct rewards’ magnificence, and all kinds of conditions when reborn, our Earth’s people all [still] hoped that there will be proof [of it]. Not handing out proof, many people still had doubt. Having doubt, this Dharma door will be affected, and not be able to be propagated [further].

所以面对那个时代一个要证据的问题的提出,慧远大师组建白莲社,用三十年专修净土三昧的实践,以及一百二十三人潜心修行的经验,为那个时代的中国人提供了一个证明:人人都有往生的瑞相,很多人在定中见到阿弥陀佛、见到西方极乐世界、临终的时候异香满室、天乐盈空、预知时至。这么多人的宗教实践,作了一个这么好的证明,而且是以那个时代的缁白二众、精英人士组建的团体作的一个证明,才使得净土法门在我们震旦国广泛的传播。

Thus, facing that period’s problem of needing proof, Great Master Huiyuan established the White Lotus Society, using thirty years to focus upon cultivation of Pure Land Samadhi, putting it into practice, and with 123 persons’ experiences of concentrating single-mindedly upon cultivating this practice, for that period’s Chinese people, this provided proof. Everyone had auspicious signs of rebirth [in Pure Land], many of them when within concentration saw Amituofo, and his Western Land Of Ultimate Bliss, and when approaching the end of life, had extraordinary fragrance fill the room, heavenly music fill the sky, knowing in advance their times of departure. With so many persons religiously putting [mindfulness of Buddha] into practice [successfully], this thus became good proof [of practice]. Moreover, it was with that period’s both assemblies of monastics and laity, with elite public figures in an organisation as proof [of practice], that enabled the Pure Land Dharma door in China to widely be propagated.

可以说,没有慧远大师也就不会有善导大师。所以慧远大师他也是四依菩萨再来。他已经完成了这么一桩事情,还不够格做净土宗祖师吗?每个祖师过来,他能完成一件重大的事情,就已经非常了不起了。看来慧远大师是没有建立一些详备的净土宗的理论,只是散见他对念佛三昧功高易进、念佛为先、包括三昧里面一些境界的描述。那么这种理论的完备,就有待于下一个祖师来完成。

It can [thus] be said, that without [the Pure Land Tradition’s First Patriarch] Great Master Huiyuan, there would be no [Pure Land Tradition’s Second Patriarch] Great Master Shandao. Thus, Great Master Huiyuan was also a Bodhisattva Of Four Reliances [who had realised at least the four fruits for self-liberation], who again came [to manifest in this world]. Having accomplished such a [great] matter, how was he still not qualified enough to be a Pure Land Patriarch? Every Patriarch who came, who was able to accomplish a great matter [of importance], is already very extraordinary. It seems that Great Master Huiyuan did not establish some detailed Pure Land Tradition’s theoretical teachings, [as] only periodically seen were his great skill of easily entering the Samadhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha, with mindfulness [of the name of] Buddha [Amituofo] as his foremost [practice], including his descriptions of some states within Samadhi. As for the theoretical teachings’ completion, awaited for the next Patriarch to accomplish.

这就再经过净土的实践,又经过昙鸾大师,道绰大师,到了善导大师集大成。他的《观经四帖疏》, 五部九卷哪,就完整的阐释了自古印传来净土的,以阿弥陀佛慈悲、救度、本愿为核心的一种净土宗本怀。所以善导大师他是净土宗的第二代祖师,他够格。他完成了一桩理论上的建构,他有他的使命。

Again, with the Pure Land teachings put into practice, passing through Great Master Tanluan and Great Master Daozhuo, having reached Great Master Shandao, were compiled into a complete doctrine. His ‘Commentary On The Contemplation Sutra In Four Fascicles’, from within his five volumes in nine scrolls [of commentaries], completely explained the Pure Land [teachings] from ancient India, on Amituofo’s loving-kindness and compassion, salvation and deliverance, and his fundamental vows being the core, as the Pure Land Tradition’s original intention. Thus, Great Master Shandao is the Second Patriarch. He was qualified enough [as] he completed the one [great] matter of establishing the theoretical teachings. He had his mission [which was this].

那么以后像【净土宗三祖】承远大师、【净土宗四祖】法照大师,像【净土宗六祖】永明延寿大师、【净土宗八祖】莲池大师这些,他们不是专修净土的,但是他们却是一往情深的求生净土的。

In this way later, those like [the Pure Land Tradition’s Third Patriarch] Great Master Chengyuan, [the Pure Land Tradition’s Fourth Patriarch] Great Master Fazhao, [the Pure Land Tradition’s Sixth Patriarch] Great Master Yongming [who was also a manifestation of Amituofo], [the Pure Land Tradition’s Eighth Patriarch] Great Master Lianchi and such, [although] they did not focus on cultivating [only] the Pure Land teachings, they were however [all] with one direction, of being deeply passionate in seeking birth in Pure Land.

这里面有个背景,中国历来的修行是以禅宗和教观为主的。这是主流。净土法门长期以来是依附性的法门。甚至说,基本上被教内把它看成比较浅的一个法门,不是主流,不受重视。所以这些菩萨祖师在这个世间,在我们中国这个背景当中要传扬净土法门,他一定要有个善巧方便。什么善巧方便?先要示现在禅宗或者教下大彻大悟或者大开圆解,他才有资格来说服宗门、教下的行人来修净土法门。

Here within, is the background of China throughout history. Cultivation of practice was mainly with the Chan Tradition, scriptural study and meditation practice. This was mainstream, [while] the Pure Land Dharma door, for a long time since, was a Dharma door with the nature of relying upon attaching [to other Dharma doors]. It can even be said, that it was basically, by those with scriptural learning, seen as a comparatively shallow Dharma door, not being the mainstream, and not paid great attention to. Thus, for these Bodhisattva Patriarchs in this world, within this background of China, to propagate the Pure Land Dharma door, they must have skilful and expedient means. What skilful and expedient means? First, they had to manifest, in the Chan Tradition or those of Scriptural Traditions, as thoroughly awakened ones with great and complete understanding. [Then are] they with qualifications to convince the Chan Tradition and Scriptural Traditions’ practitioners to come and cultivate the Pure Land Dharma door.

永明延寿大师,他是禅宗法眼宗第三代祖师,他是大彻大悟的,在禅宗没话可说。于是他导归极乐世界,万善同归净土。他作《禅净四料简》,作得很好。他有资格说这个话,为末法宗门、教下的行人指出了一条出离生死、仰靠佛力到西方极乐世界的一条康莊大道。

As Great Master Yongming, he was the Chan Tradition’s Fayan (Dharma Eye) Tradition’s Third Patriarch, who was thoroughly awakened, which in the Chan Tradition is indisputable. Thus, he could guide [all] to “return” to the Land Of Ultimate Bliss, by having their ten thousand goodnesses together returning [or dedicated] to [reaching of] Pure Land. His “Brief On Four Categories Of Chan And Pure Land Practices” was very well composed. [See https://purelanders.com/2009/12/15/brief-on-four-categories] He had the qualifications to say its words. For those of the Dharma-Ending Age’s Chan Tradition and Scriptural Traditions’ practitioners, he pointed out a smooth, broad and great path for departing from [the cycle of] birth and death, by relying upon [Amitabha] Buddha’s power to reach his Western Land Of Ultimate Bliss.

那你看,莲池大师在明末的时候,也是唐宋以来禅宗很兴盛,莲池大师也是宗门开悟的。蕅益大师也是宗门开悟的,而且教观非常通达。然后以他们大通家的身份再来弘扬净土法门,很有说服力,很有影响力。这样的祖师还不够净土宗祖师的风范吗?

As you can see, when Great Master Lianchi [came, it was] at the end of the Ming Dynasty. Also [then], from the Tang and Song Dynasties since, [as] the Chan Tradition was very prosperous, Great Master Lianchi was also in the Chan Tradition awakened. [The Pure Land Tradition’s Ninth Patriarch] Great Master Ouyi also was in the Chan Tradition awakened, moreover with scriptural learning and meditation practice very clearly realised. Thereafter, with their statuses of being great experts in all [Dharma] fields, to thus propagate the Pure Land Dharma door, they had much power to convince, and much power of influence. Of this kind of Patriarchs, how can they not have [done] enough to be model [examples, to be the] Pure Land Tradition’s Patriarchs?

所以那种说法——只有善导大师才够资格,其他的十二位祖师都不够资格,这句话是说得太没有水平了。如果你这样说的话,实际上你对中国净土宗祖师这样一种轻薄,可以说是上纲上线。这都谤法谤僧,断人法身慧命。

Thus, saying so, that only Great Master Shandao was qualified enough [as a Pure Land Patriarch, that the] other 12 Patriarchs are all not qualified enough, these words spoken are too lacking in standard [or substance]. If you say so, actually, you are, towards the Chinese Pure Land Tradition’s Patriarchs, with this kind of belittling [and slighting], it can be said, to criticise (as a matter of principle), to all be of slander of the Dharma and slander of the Sangha, that [might] sever [other] people’s Dharma body’s wisdom lives [if they are accordingly misled].

尤其说真正的净土宗到了日本去,唐代以后都没有净土宗,这就更是无稽之谈、荒唐之说。他们都有一种说法,就是日本人搞的什么“三国七祖”的谱系,好像以后从龙树、天亲就到昙鸾、道绰、善导,善导就传到源信、法然,等等。这些东西我们看一看,笑一笑而已,也没有必要跟他去谈那么多。但是如果我们都接受这套说法,那根本就没有任何的道理。

Especially those who say that the true Pure Land Tradition had gone to Japan, that after the Tang Dynasty, there is no more Pure Land Tradition [in China], this is even more baseless speak and absurd talk. They all say so, that the Japanese created a so-called “three countries’ seven Patriarchs’ lineage system, as if saying that after Nagarjuna [Bodhisattva], Vasubandhu [Bodhisattva], [the teachings were then transmitted] to [Great Master] Tanluan, [Great Master] Daozhuo and [Great Master] Shandao, who transmitted them to Yuanxin, Faran (Honen), etc. On these things, we can just take a look and smile, [as] it is not a must to discuss with them too much [on this]. However, if we all are to accept this way of saying, there is fundamentally no reason of any kind [to do so].   

本身日本净土真宗也是仰承我们善导大师、昙鸾大师的理念去做的。所以我们没有必要去传扬他日本真宗本愿法门。我们本土这个思想就已经完备了,没有必要要那个舶来品。但是我们对人家要尊重,也不要去批判他。为什么?因为佛法它在哪个国家、哪个民族的表现形态,是要应众生根机的。可能真宗本愿的方式,适合于日本这个岛国民众的心理:比较重视信心——信心得救,对戒律他不是太重视。对通途呢,他有时候不是太融会,等等这些。我们知道他是一个岛国的心理,可能他就是那样才能利益众生。我们也不要去驳斥他们。

Of itself, Japan’s “Pure Land ‘True’ Tradition” (Jodo Shinshu) [was said to] rely upon Great Master Shandao and Great Master Tanluan’s ideologies for practice. Thus, [if so], we do not need to propagate their Japanese Shinshu’s fundamental vow Dharma door. [As] our native land’s ideology is already complete, there is no need to want “imported goods.” However, we to others must be respectful, also not needing to criticise them. Why? Because when the Buddha’s teachings are in whichever country, with whichever people’s manifesting of forms, they have to respond to sentient beings’ [spiritual] roots and capacities. It may be that Shinshu’s fundamental vow’s method suits Japan, its island nation’s people’s mentality, which pays more attention to Faith of attaining salvation, [while] towards discipline through the precepts not paying much attention. Towards common [or general] paths [of practice], they sometimes are not very able to integrate [with them harmoniously], as with other [matters] like such. We know that they are of an island nation’s mentality, and it may be with this way, that is able to benefit sentient beings [there. Thus], we too do not want to criticise them.

我们中国大陆作为这种大乘佛法气象非常浓厚的一个国家,我们中国有这个礼教的精神,我们要传承儒、道、释三家文化的精髓。我们要增强持戒意识,中国十三代祖师都对持戒非常严谨的。虽然不是靠持戒去往生的,但是持戒能够有效地感通佛力,持戒能够帮助我们建立信根,持戒能够增上我们往生的品位。尤其戒律是佛教的寿命、佛教的幢相。佛的戒律没有了,佛法要在这个地球上提前消亡。我们作为佛弟子还能不尊重戒律,还能不身体力行吗?所以对刚刚提的两种观点,我们认为都是不正确的。

In Mainland China [however, and some other countries], the Great Vehicle’s [Mahayana] Buddhist teachings’ atmosphere is very strong [and rich. As] China has the Confucian teachings’ spirit, we have to pass on the Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist’s three schools of thought’s cultural essence [where harmonious in nature]. We have to strengthen understanding of [how to] uphold the precepts, [as] the 13 Chinese Patriarchs all have strict regard towards upholding of the precepts. Although it is not [by] relying on upholding of precepts [that] rebirth [in Pure Land is attained], however, upholding of precepts is able to effectively [aid the] effect of connecting to [Amitabha] Buddha’s power, help us establish the root of Faith, and raise our grade of rebirth [in Pure Land]. [It is] especially with discipline of the precepts, [that determines the] Buddha’s teachings’ lifespan [in our world, as it is a] banner [or form of] the Buddha’s teachings, [that signifies its existence. If] the Buddha’s discipline of precepts does not exist, the Buddha’s teachings will from this Earth, in advance die out. How can we as the Buddha’s disciples [then], not respect the discipline of precepts, and not earnestly practise what was advocated? Thus, regarding the two viewpoints raised just now [in the questions], we think they are both not right.

希望我们中国大陆的净业行人,还是要依照我们中国十三代祖师的思想去做。每个祖师在不同的时代应机说法,表现的形态各有特长。像善导大师在盛唐——隋末唐初,那是中国最好的一段时间,是中国人福德、智慧最深厚的一段时间,他可以从信心单刀直入,然后厌离心就能出来,然后一往情深的念阿弥陀佛,念《阿弥陀经》。哎,往生者那真是很多。

We hope that Mainland Chinese practitioners of pure karma [for birth in Pure Land], will still accord with the Chinese 13 Patriarchs’ ideologies for practice. Every Patriarch during different periods responded to capacities [of the beings then] to speak the Dharma, manifesting forms each with their specialities. Such did Great Master Shandao do during the prosperous Tang, at the end of the Sui Dynasty and the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, which was China’s best period [in history]. When the Chinese people’s blessed virtues and wisdom were the most profound, he could, [beginning] from Faith, get straight to the point [when teaching]. Thereafter, with the mind of revulsed renunciation [from the cycle of birth and death] able to arise, and thereafter with one direction, of being deeply passionate in mindfulness of Amituofo, and reciting of Amituojing (Amitabha Sutra). Ah! Those who attained rebirth [in Pure Land then] were truly many.

但是到了现在,用这种方式是不是有普遍性,这要考量哦。现在我们中国大陆的中国人,近百年来没有儒家文化的基础,连做人都做不好:内心非常的弯曲,充满机心、虚假,而且以所谓的成功、利益作为他生命的目标,内心很无明的。如果你直接跟他去讲净土法门,他可能很难信得及。不仅不相信,还以为你是迷信,他还哈哈大笑。那在这种情况下,我们就得要借助一下儒家文化,先让他把人做好。所以净业三福必须要讲。你世间的福德做好了,才能开发出世间的智慧;出世间的智慧出来了——就是般若智慧出来了,你才能对这个净土往生一法,对阿弥陀佛愿力的救度产生信心,产生愿力。

However, having reached now, to use this kind of method [above], whether it is to be widespread, this needs considering. Now, in Mainland China, the Chinese people, almost for a hundred years, were without Confucian culture as foundation, [due to war and chaos, such that] even being a good human is not done well. With the mind very warped, full of deceptiveness and pretence, and with so-called [personal] success and benefits as life goals, their minds are very ignorant. If you directly tell them to learn about the Pure Land Dharma door, they might find it difficult to attain Faith. Not only not believing, they [might] even assume you have blind faith, and laugh loudly [at you. Thus], under these circumstances, we have to draw support from Confucian culture [which is generally secular, to] first enable them to become better humans. Thus, the Pure Karma Of Three Blessings  must be taught [See https://purelanders.com/2010/03/15/three-acts-of-merit-true-causes-for-pure-karma]. [After] your worldly blessed virtues are well accomplished, then are you able to develop world-transcending wisdom, and with world-transcending wisdom developed, this is when Prajna wisdom arises. Then, regarding this one Dharma door for rebirth in Pure Land, and Amituofo’s power of vows to save and deliver, will your Faith arise, [along] with [your] power of vow [or Aspiration to be born there].    

所以本人倒是觉得:这个时代,【净土宗十三祖】印光大师的思想更为契机——儒佛共弘。体现在他的四句话:“敦伦尽分,閒邪存诚,诸恶莫作,众善奉行”。这是世间善法的传达;出世间善法就是:“真为生死,发菩提心,深信切愿,持佛名号”—— 【净土宗十二祖】彻悟大师的四句话:十六字纲宗­。

Thus, I feel that, during this period, [the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch] Great Master Yinguang’s ideology is even more agreeable [to today’s beings’] capacities – which is to propagate both Confucianism [where agreeable] and Buddhism. [As] expressed in his four lines, “[With] kindness [in] human relationships, [to the] utmost fulfil [one’s] part [responsibly], end evil [thoughts], maintain sincerity, [integrity and respect, of] all evils not do [them, and for] all good fulfil [them].” This is worldly good [or wholesome] Dharma being transmitted. [For] world-transcending good Dharma, it is “Truly for [transcending the cycle of] birth and death, give rise to the Bodhi mind (Bodhicitta), with profound (or deep) Faith and sincere Aspiration, uphold [Practice of mindfulness of] Buddha’s name [i.e. Amituofo].” [These are the Pure Land Tradition’s 12th Patriarch] Great Master Chewu’s four lines, with its 16 words as the [Pure Land] Tradition’s guiding principle.

我想——本人浅薄的感觉,在这个时代更应该要把这八句话作为我们弘扬净土法门的两翼,才能够利益更多的众生。等到这两翼,特别是在第二种状态,可以把善导大师的思想贯注进去,同时也要把莲池大师、蕅益大师、彻悟大师的思想融合起来。我甚至觉得对中国净土宗弘扬,要把十三代祖师作为一个完整的整体去看待他。所以说只有善导大师一人,其他都不够祖师的资格,这说法是极为荒谬的。我们不要去听从。

I think, with my personal shallow perception, that in this period, we should use these eight lines as the two wings for propagating the Pure Land Dharma door. Then will we be able to benefit even more sentient beings. Awaiting for when these two wings [are strong], especially when reaching the second state, [then] can Great Master Shandao’s ideology be concentrated upon, at the same time also with Great Master Lianchi, Great Master Ouyi, and Great Master Chewu’s ideologies harmonised together. I even feel that, regarding the Chinese Pure Land Tradition’s propagation, it must be with the 13 Patriarchs’ [teachings together, with] complete synthesis when looking at them. Thus, to say that only Great Master Shandao, as one person [is a Pure Land Patriarch, with the] others not qualified enough [to be Patriarchs], saying so is extremely absurd. We should not listen to [such].

Related Articles:

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https://purelanders.com/2017/04/17/30-misconceptions-of-so-called-pristine-pure-land-buddhism
Biography Of The First Patriarch Of Chinese Pure Land Tradition Great Master Huiyuan
https://purelanders.com/2017/04/17/biography-of-the-first-patriarch-of-chinese-pure-land-tradition-great-master-huiyuan

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!