How The Pure Land Tradition’s Fourth Patriarch Great Master Fazhao Met Manjusri Bodhisattva
大历二年（公元 767 年），在南岳云峰，法照大师, 后称净土宗四祖，偶于钵中感见祥云高山与寺院，涧溪北面有一石门，内中有一寺庙，题有’大圣竹林寺’金字。大师见此情景虽然清晰，然内心尚疑是自己的幻觉。
In the Tang Dynasty’s second year (of Emperor Daizhong, in 767), at the South Mountain’s Cloud Peak (Nanyue Yunfeng), Great Master Fazhao, who was later named as the Pure Land Tradition’s Fourth Patriarch happened to look within his alms bowl, and saw auspicious clouds around a high mountain’s monastery. To the valley stream’s northern face was a stone gate, within which was a monastery, with the name ‘Monastery Of The Great Sage’s Bamboo Grove’ (Dasheng Zulinsi) in golden characters. Although the Great Master saw these scenes clearly, he still suspected that it could be his imagination.
After a period of time, when eating alms food, he saw within the alms bowl again, five-coloured auspicious clouds and towering pavilions, even seeing Manjusri Bodhisattva with many sages in an assembly, teaching the sutras for speaking the Dharma. Only after finishing the alms food, did the scenes then disappear.
The Great Master inquired of other monks, before knowing they were scenes of the Mountain [Range] Of Five Terraces (which is Wutaishan, the holy mountain of Manjusri Bodhisattva), therefore giving rise to strong aspiration to make a pilgrimage there. However, conditions that obstructed were extremely many, such that he was yet to be able to accomplish his travelling.
大历四年（公元 769 年）夏天，大师于衡州湖东寺，启五会念佛道场，感五色彩云弥覆其寺，祥云中现出许多楼阁寺宇，阿弥陀佛及二菩萨身相高大，满虚空中。参与法会的人都清楚的见到，个个泣血顶礼，欢喜踊跃。如是景象持续了四个小时才消失。
In the summer of the Tang Dynasty’s fourth year (of Emperor Daizhong, in 769), when the Great Master was at Hengzhou’s Monastery Of The Lake’s East (Hudongsi) to initiate the place for practice of the ‘Five Assemblies Of Mindfulness Of Buddha’, there was the auspicious response of five-coloured clouds completely covering the monastery. Within the auspicious clouds appeared many towering pavilions and monasteries. Amitabha Buddha [i.e. Amituofo] and two Bodhisattvas with tall and huge forms filled the sky. All who participated in the Dharma assembly saw them clearly, with each prostrating reverently with enthusiastic joy. Such was the scene that continued for four hours before it disappeared.
That night, where mindfulness of Buddha was practised, the Great Master met an old man, who said to him, ‘As the Dharma Master once gave rose to the aspiration to make a pilgrimage to the Mountain Of Five Terraces, why are you, for so long, still not travelling there?’
大师回答：’障难甚多，路途遥远，怎么去的了呢？’ 老人说：’只要肯下决心，道路遥远崎岖又怎能挡得住呢？’ 说完，倏然不见。
The Great Master replied, ‘As obstacles and difficulties are extremely many, and the journey to it is far, how can I go?’ The old man said, ‘As long as you are willing to be determined, how can the path being distant and rough be able to obstruct you?‘ Having finished speaking, he suddenly disappeared.
Both surprised and joyful, the Great Master, before the Buddha image renewed his vows, and awaited for the Dharma assembly for mindfulness of Buddha to come to the end, before immediately setting off. Even if fires gathered and rivers froze, he was determined to never retreat. Thus, together with a number of those with the same aspiration, they embarked on the journey with inspiration, which did indeed go smoothly.
大历五年（公元 770 年）四月五日，大师等四人到了五台山，蒙佛光照引，寻至大圣竹林寺，看见文殊菩萨与普贤菩萨端坐在讲堂师子宝座上，为众说法，历历可闻。
In the Tang Dynasty’s fifth year (of Emperor Daizhong, in 770), on the fifth day of the fourth month, the Great Master and four others reached the Mountain Of Five Terraces. Receiving illumination of the Buddha’s light for guidance, they searched for and found the ‘Monastery Of The Great Sage’s Bamboo Grove’, where Manjusri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva were seen sitting upright upon the lion’s treasure throne, for the assembly speaking the Dharma, which could be heard distinctly.
After reverently prostrating to the two great Bodhisattvas, the Great Master asked, ‘The Dharma-Ending Age’s ordinary beings, are from the sages, distant in time, with knowledge transformed to be lowly, with obstacles from defilements that are especially deep, with their Buddha-nature unable to appear. The Buddha’s teachings are vast, and I have yet to examine them [all, to know] which Dharma door, is the most essential. I only wish the great sage(s), can break my web of doubt.’
Manjusri Bodhisattva answered, ‘You now should practise mindfulness of Buddha, as now is the right time. Of all doors to cultivate practices, there is none like mindfulness of Buddha, and offering to the Triple Gem [of Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha], to cultivate both blessings and wisdom. These two Dharma doors, are the most essential paths. I, when within past kalpas, due to contemplation of Buddha thus, due to mindfulness of Buddha thus, due to making of offerings thus, have now attained the all-knowing wisdom [of Buddhahood]. This is thus as all Dharma teachings, Prajna Paramita [i.e. Perfection Of Wisdom], extremely profound [meditative] concentrations, and even all Buddhas, are all from mindfulness of Buddha then born. Thus know that mindfulness of Buddha, is the king of all Dharma [doors]. You should constantly be mindful of this unsurpassable Dharma king, enabling it to never rest.’
The Great Master again asked, ‘How should I be mindful [of Buddha]?’
Manjusri Bodhisattva taught, ‘From this world, to the West, is Amita[bha] Buddha [i.e. Amituofo]. That Buddha’s power of vows is inconceivable. You should continually be mindful [of him, e.g. via his name], enabling it to be without interruption. After the end of this life, you will definitely attain rebirth there, to forever never retrogress.’
After speaking, the Bodhisattva, for the Great Master, rubbed his crown, and for him conferred this prediction, ‘You, with mindfulness of Buddha thus, not long after, will realise unsurpassable, right and equally [perfect] Bodhi [i.e enlightenment of Buddhahood]. If there are good men, women and others, who aspire to quickly accomplish as Buddhas, there is no better way than to be mindful of [Amitabha] Buddha [i.e. Amituofo], thus able to swiftly realise unsurpassable Bodhi [i.e enlightenment of Buddhahood].’
Having completed speaking, the two great sages to each other spoke in verse. The Great Master reverently listened, and was filled with Dharma joy, before prostrating as they departed.
In an instant, all in the earlier scene suddenly disappeared. Feeling sorrowful, the Great Master thus, at the original spot erected a giant piece of stone, using it to provide commemoration.
Later, receiving an old Indian monk’s advice, he shared what he heard with all his Dharma friends, and at the original spot emulated what he saw, by constructing a magnificent monastery, named as the ‘Monastery Of The Great Sage’s Bamboo Grove.’
– Translated by Shen Shi’an using text adapted from http://www.donglin.org/wk/2010/0710/2424.html