Monastic Dharma Name: Shi Daochuo (Great Master)
Status: Great monastic master
Family Name: Wei (Surname)
Place Of Birth: Present day Shanxi Wenshui, Jiaocheng County
Year Of Birth: 562
Year Of Rebirth: 645
Best Known Work: Collection On Peace And Bliss
Great Master Daochuo was born in the Northern Qi Dynasty, during the first year of Emperor Wu’s rule (562 C.E.), at Bing Province’s Wenshui (now Shanxi Wenshui, Jiaocheng County), in a Wei family. The Great Master, at the age of 14, renounced the worldly to become a monastic, which was when studies on the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and Buddha-nature was very popular. The Great Master thus taught the Mahaparinirvana Sutra 24 times. Later, he went to Taiyuan Mengshan’s Kaihua Monastery, where under the guidance of the senior and venerated Chan Master Huizan’s (536-607), he attained profound accomplishments.
In the Sui Dynasty’s Daye’s 5th year (609 C.E.), the 48-year-old Great Master went to Shibi Xuanzhong Monastery to further his learning. After reading the detailed descriptive records of Great Master Tanluan’s process of cultivating and learning the Pure Land Dharma door, and the various auspicious signs when he was reborn, Great Master Daochuo was deeply moved, thus becoming determined, to preach and wholeheartedly focus on practice of the Pure Land Dharma door.
Since then, the Great Master concentrated single-mindedly on research and study of all sutras on Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land. Reaching the Tang Dynasty’s Zhenguan years, the Great Master was already accomplished as an eminent monk of his generation, whose fame spread in the ten directions, even having, at Xuanzhong Monastery, lectured on the Sutra On Contemplation Of Immeasurable Life for more than two hundred times, until his passing.
The Great Master’s eloquence was without obstacles, being proficient in various Buddhist traditions’ teachings, and able to explain them with brilliant and varied presentations. Using appropriate analogies, his teaching methods were flexible and lively, such that listeners never got tired of listening to him. Even if there were non-believers who came to find fault with the Great Master and the Pure Land Dharma door, once seeing the Great Master’s graceful bearing or hearing him explain the Pure Land doctrine, there were none whose hearts were not filled with joy and sincerely convinced and transformed, to turn towards his teachings.
Thus, every time the Great Master lectured, from Jinyang, Taiyuan, Wenshui, regardless of far or near, devotees would always enthusiastically come to listen. At the end of the lectures, the masses would be full of praise, as the sound of mindfulness of the Buddha (i.e. Amituofo) would reverberate through the woods and valleys. After many years of painstaking persuasion, all of the three counties’ men and women over the age of seven could recite the name of Amitabha Buddha (i.e. Amituofo). Due to the Great Master’s great and magnificent virtuous deeds, in the Tang Dynasty’s Zhenguan years, Emperor Taizong once personally visited Xuanzhong Monastery, to pray for the speedy recovery of Empress Wendi, and visited the Great Master, to pay homage and make offerings to him.
Since the Northern and Southern Dynasties, faith in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land teachings in China gradually flourished. Great Masters of various traditions also gradually started to raise questions on subjects of the Pure Land’s teachings from the perspectives of their traditions. Although this might promote propagation of the Pure Land Dharma door, however, due to the views each being different, this caused many new problems for the Pure land’s faith and practice instead.
Directed towards this phenomenon, the Great Master authored the Collection On Peace And Bliss in two scrolls, which widely cited from more than 50 sutras and commentaries, as a diligent effort to eradicate various forms of thought and theories harmful to the Pure Land tradition’s development, such as the misconceptions that Amitabha Buddha is not a Reward (Body) Buddha, and that his Pure Land is not a Reward Land.
The Great Master, upon inheriting Great Master Tanluan’s foundational thought, added his personal life experiences and his extensive knowledge on Buddhist studies, to elaborate on and express the Pure Land doctrine’s unique viewpoints. With Great Master Tanluan and Nagarjuna Bodhisattva’s teachings on the Difficult Path and Easy Path, the Great Master systematically and completely categorised all of the Buddha’s teachings as either relying on the Difficult Path or Easy Path, as with Self-Power or also with Other-Power, as the Noble Path Door and Pure Land Door.
Before this, although Great Master Tanluan had already explained the concept of ‘[attaining rebirth in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land with] ten mindful thoughts [of “Amituofo”]’, there were still disbelievers. Among them, of representative nature is the Shelun (Mahayanasangraha) school of thought, that the concept is but the Tathagata’s teaching on ‘[its effect in] another [future] time’ (Kalantarabhipraya). The Great Master taught that the ‘ten mindful thoughts accomplishing [rebirth in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land] and to ‘immediately attain rebirth [in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land] are all the effect (fruit) of this present life. Furthermore, there was no mention of ‘another time’s distant cause’ (Kalantarabhipraya) in the Contemplation Sutra.
Moreover, those able to ‘[attaining rebirth in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land with] ten mindful thoughts [of “Amituofo”]’ are all with profound good roots. Although these persons in this life, due to the Three Poisons (greed, hatred and delusion), which aroused their body, speech and thought to create much negative karma, however, in their previous lifetimes, having made offerings to many Buddhas, given rise to Bodhicitta, not slandering the Mahayana teachings, and have joyful love for the Buddha’s teachings, thus when approaching death able to meet good-knowing advisors who offer guidance, and are able to faithfully receive and practise, with utmost sincerity mindful of [Amitabha] Buddha, with ten mindful thoughts also able to be reborn (in his Pure Land).
除教理讲述外, 大师为鼓励大众精进念佛，特教大家称念阿弥陀佛名号之时用豆类记下数目，每称名一声便记一粒。以此记数念佛就是我们今天所用的数珠念佛 。
Theory aside, the Great Master, for encouraging the masses to diligently be mindful of Amitabha Buddha, specially taught everyone to use beans to record their number of recitations, with every one recitation recorded by one bean. This method of counting chants is the originator of today’s using of counting beads while mindful of Buddha.
When Great Master was 70-years-old, not only was his body light and healthy, he even grew new adult teeth. Until before his rebirth, he was still glowing with good health, and in radiant spirits. In Zhenguan’s 19th year (645 C.E.), on the 24th day of the 4th lunar month, the Great Master knew in advance the time of his departure, and to the monastics and laypeople, he bade farewell. Countless devotees from the three counties came forth to say goodbye. On the 27th day, at Xuanzhong Monastery, he passed on, at the age of 84. When the Great Master was reborn, a white cloud arrived from the West, and shone its light through the house. During cremation, five-coloured light appeared in the sky, to shine around the sun. The Great Master’s auspicious signs throughout his rebirth were inconceivable.