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How To Reach Pure Land Sooner Or Later

莹珂法师早生净土公案
Dharma Master Yingke’s Public Case Of Sooner Birth In Pure Land

[·]莹珂。不详其所出。受业霅(zhà)川瑶山。酒炙(zhì)无所择。

[From the Song Dynasty], [Dharma Master] Yingke was of unclear place of birth. He studied at River Zha’s Mount Yao. Of wine and meat, he did not pick them out [i.e. he drank and ate them with no restraint, though monastic precepts forbid so].

一日忽自念梵行亏缺。且堕恶道。向同住僧。取戒珠禅师所编往生传读之。

One day, he suddenly became mindful that his purification practices were in lack, moreover [possible to] fall into the evil realms [of hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals, due to his negative karma]. From a monastic living together, he took Chan Master Jiezhu’s edited book ‘Biographies Of Pure Land Rebirths’ to read.

大有感发。择一室。面西设坐。绝食念佛。

Greatly moved and inspired, he chose a room, in which he faced the West to arrange a seat [to express his Aspiration to reach the Western Pure Land]. Refusing food, he practised mindfulness of Buddha [with profound Faith and sincere Aspiration, as it was the way to escape from a negative rebirth].

越三日。梦佛及大士告曰。汝寿尚有十年。且当自勉。

Passing three days later, he dreamt that [Amitabha] Buddha and the great Bodhisattva [Guanyin] told him, ‘Your lifespan still has ten years. For the time being, you should encourage yourself [to continue practice].’ [This can be seen to already be confirmation that he will be able to be received and guided to Pure Land later.]

珂白佛言。阎浮浊恶。易失正念。所愿早生安养。承事众圣。

Yingke said to the Buddha, ‘Jambudvipa is defiled and evil, easy to lose right mindfulness. What I aspire is to earlier be born in the Land Of Peaceful Nurturing, to receive and serve all its noble ones.’

佛言。汝志如是。后三日当迎汝。

The Buddha said, ‘As your Aspiration is such, three days later, I will come to welcome you.’

至期。命众诵阿弥经。曰佛及圣众俱至。寂然而化(佛祖统纪)。

When the date arrived, he ordered the assembly [of monastics] to recite the Amita[bha] Sutra. Saying the Buddha and the noble assembly have together arrived, he peacefully departed. (Buddhist Patriarchs’ Gathered Records)

Notes:

[1] Precepts: In the first place, we should observe the precepts well, to avoid creating negative karma that might direct us to the evil realms, or even create karmic obstacles for successful Nianfo practice. However, if there are obstacles, we should all the more sincerely Nianfo to eradicate them.

[2]
 Intoxication: Not only for monastics, the avoidance of intoxicants is an important precept for laypersons in the context of the basic Five Precepts too, as it guards mindfulness, to prevent the accidental and intentional breaking of other precepts under the influence of intoxicants.

[3] Aspiration: Refusing food and rest will not reach Pure Land if the Three Provisions (of Faith, Aspiration and Practice) are not adequate. Most Nianfo practitioners already have the Provisions to some extent, while lacking Aspiration to depart now. However, when ‘now’ become the final or a desperate moment, it is possible to ‘pump up’ Aspiration (which by default includes Faith) fully.

[4] Inspiration: Master Yingke’s practice was successful because he was sincere and diligent, also motivated by his strong repentance with a sense of moral shame, and the clear Aspiration to reach Pure Land swiftly, out of fear of being reborn in an evil realm. Just as he was moved and inspired by others’ accounts of reaching Pure Land, we should be just as moved and inspired by his account.

[5] Hope: Master Yingke must have had strong karmic affinity with Amituofo from past lives, to be able to so swiftly give rise to the Three Provisions upon reading the text. His habit of intoxication was thus an expression of spiritual backsliding in this life, yet reversed in time. Perhaps he was a Bodhisattva who expressed the power of sincere Nianfo, to offer hope for repentant ‘evil’ ones.

[6] Repentance: It was with connection to Amituofo’s blessings, that diluted Master Yingke’s negative karma, that enabled him to escape from the evil realms. While this might seem ‘unfair’ to some, the truth is, a truly repentant person is already not a truly evil person, while a truly evil person will not be truly repentant, thus unable to connect sincerely to Amituofo.

[7] Backsliding: Just as it was wise for Master Yingke to recognise his potential for spiritual backsliding, we too should be aware of our potential for this same problem. If we do not practise Nianfo to be liberated from Samsara in this lifetime, we will remain stuck here, for indefinite lives, to create more negative karma that further traps us.

[8] Readiness: When the Three Provisions are adequate, Amituofo will definitely arrive to receive and guide us to Pure Land there and then, as was the case for Master Yingke, without going through the usual process of ageing, sickness and dying. Since when we are ready depends on us, our worldly lifespans can be shortened at will and with ease, through Amituofo’s blessings, to sooner have immeasurable life in his Pure Land. Of course, we should fulfil our responsibilities first.

自觉法师后生净土公案
Dharma Master Zijue’s Public Case Of Later Birth In Pure Land

[·]自觉。博陵望都人。少出家开元寺。至德二年。往灵寿县禅法寺。习律经论。勤瘁(cuì)九年。皆造精微。

[From the Tang Dynasty, which is before the Song Dynasty], [Dharma Master] Zijue was from Boling’s Wangdu County. When young, he renounced the household life at Kaiyuan Monastery. In Zhide’s second year, he went to Linshou County’s Chanfa Monastery to study the Vinaya [i.e. monastic discipline], Sutras [i.e. scriptures] and Sastras [i.e. treatises]. Toiling diligently for nine years, with all of his learning refined. [He was in many ways the opposite of Dharma Master Yingke (above) in everyday practice.]

大历元年。往平山县界。得重林山院居焉。拾果采蔬。日唯一食。

In Dali’s first year, he went to Pingshan County’s border. Encountering Mount Chonglin Court, he resided there, picking fruits and vegetables, eating only one meal a day.

岁大旱。恒阳节度使张公。闻其精苦。躬(gōng)入山。请其祈雨。觉虔告龙神。大雨立下。张甚尊礼之。

One year, there was a great drought. Hengyang’s provincial governor Duke Zhang, hearing his diligent strife, personally entered the mountain, to invite him to request for rain. Zijue sincerely prayed to the naga gods. As great rain immediately fell, Duke Zhang paid great respect to honour him.

初欲铸(zhù)大悲菩萨像。并建佛寺。至是施者骈(pián)集。铸像高四十九尺。梵相端严。迨(dài)年稔(rěn)。寺亦随成。

Initially he desired to cast an image of the great compassionate [Guanyin] Bodhisattva. In addition, he built a Buddhist monastery. With what benefactors gave gathered together, the casted image made was 49 [Chinese] feet [i.e. 16.3 metres] tall, with a pure form, that was upright and magnificent. While that year’s grain ripened, the monastery was also accordingly accomplished. 

遂於坛前矢(shi)愿。愿承圣力。早生净土。

Thereupon before the altar, he made a vow, aspiring to receive holy [Other-]power, to earlier be born in Pure Land.

夜三更。见金光二道。中有阿弥陀佛。自光中下。二大士左右随之。佛垂金臂摩觉顶曰。守愿勿易。利物为先。宝池生处。任从汝愿。

At midnight [or between 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.], he saw two rays of golden light, with Amita[bha] Buddha [i.e. Amituofo] between. Descending from within the lights, were the two great Bodhisattvas [Guanyin and Dashizhi] on his left and right [respectively]. The Buddha lowered his golden arm to touch Zijue’s crown and said, ‘Guard your Aspiration [to reach Pure Land] and do not change it, with benefiting sentient beings as [your] foremost [task, as when to reach the] treasure pond [in Pure Land] where [you will be] born, is at your discretion, [as] you aspire.’

贞元十一年二月望夜。见神人现半身云中。俯谓觉曰。师西归之期至矣。觉举手谢之。

On Zhenyuan’s 11th year’s (795) 2nd month while gazing at the night sky, seen was a heavenly being’s half body manifesting within the clouds, who looked down and said to Zijue, ‘The master’s date of “return” to the West[ern Pure Land] has reached.’ Zijue raised his hands in thanks.

六月十四日。即於观音像前趺坐而化。

On the 6th month’s 14th day, promptly before the Guanyin Bodhisattva image, he sat in the lotus posture and departed.

觉所铸大悲像。屡著(zhe)显应。至周显德初。勅(chì)令天下铜像一例除毁。及是像。匠氏暴卒。后宋太祖令重铸於寺焉。(宋高僧传,佛祖统纪)

Zijue’s casted image of the great compassionate one, frequently had remarkable signs of sympathetic responses. Reaching Zhou Dynasty’s Xiande’s early years, there were imperial orders that all bronze images were to be destroyed. Reaching this image, the workmen suddenly died. Later, Song [Dynasty’s] Emperor Taizu ordered recasting of it within the monastery. (Song’s Record Of Great Monastics, Buddhist Patriarchs’ Gathered Records)

Notes: 

[1] Progress: Despite already being very well-learned and well-practised in the Dharma, Master Zijue still aspired to reach Pure Land, to expedite his progress to Buddhahood in the most skilful way possible. If even the usually not so virtuous, such as Master Yingke aspired to reach Pure Land in his last days, what more the usually much more virtuous, such as Master Zijue in everyday life?

[2] Assurance: Although perhaps not as dramatically as these Masters’ experiences, we too can experience various kinds of auspicious signs, through which Amituofo compassionately consoles and encourages, assuring that we are practising in the right direction to reach his Pure Land.

[3] Mission: As Master Zijue was already very spiritually capable, (in contrast to Dharma Master Yingke, whom Amituofo readily agreed to guide to Pure Land), Amituofo encouraged him to remain in this world first, to continue guiding others, while assuring that he will definitely reach Pure Land later. Yet, as mentioned by Amituofo himself, he still let him choose when to reach his Pure Land.

[4] Compassion: Respectively, guiding to Pure Land sooner and later were equal expressions of Amituofo’s great compassion, in the first case, for protecting Master Yingke and those he might harm, and in the second case, for supporting Master Zijue and those he can help. Amituofo also gave early assurance to both, as they were very sincere in connecting to him. We should all do our best now to help more to reach Pure Land, where we will master how best to help all later.

[5] Proof: Although Master Zijue was informed by a messenger god that his day of departure for Pure Land would be soon, being well-practised, he could, as informed by Amituofo, choose exactly when, where and how to depart. Being informed by a god also proved his virtuous character, which deserved protection even by the gods. These two public cases of Master Yingke and Master Zijue help to inspire our Faith in the efficacy of Nianfo, as they displayed its greatest proof – of being able to know (and tell) in advance, the time of arrival of Amituofo, (for departure to Pure Land) (预知时至). This continual phenomenon is also Amituofo’s compassionate skilful means to inspire our Faith!


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http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/12/how-to-transcend-your-present-suffering-now
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