Monastic Dharma Name: Shi Shandao (Great Master)
Status: Second Patriarch Of The Pure Land Tradition (School)
Family Name: Zhu (Surname)
Place Of Birth: Si Prefecture or Linzi District (Present day Zibo Prefecture in Shandong Province)
Year Of Birth: 613 C.E.
Year Of Rebirth: 681 C.E.
Best Known Works: Commentary On The Contemplation Sutra In Four Fascicles, Verses Of Praise For Rebirth, Praise Of Pure Land Dharma Matters, Praise Of Rebirth Relying On The Contemplation Sutra And The Pratyutpanna Samadhi Path, and Dharma Door Of Contemplative Mindfulness
善导大师生于隋大业九年（613），泗州或临淄 (今山东淄博) 。十岁时从三论宗高僧明胜法师出家。学三论宗经典，亦常读诵《法华》、《维摩》诸经。
Great Master Shandao was born during Sui Dynasty’s Daye’s nine years (613 C.E.), at Si Prefecture or Linzi District (i.e. now Zibo Prefecture in Shandong Province). At the age of 10, he renounced the household life through an eminent monk of the Three-Treatises Tradition, Dharma Master Mingsheng. He learnt the Three-Treatises Tradition’s scriptures, also often studying and reciting the Lotus Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra and many other sutras.
One day, upon sight of a painting depicting the Western Pure Land, his heart was filled with great joy. After receiving the complete monastic precepts from Precept Master Miaokai, he accidentally entered the Sutra Repository Hall. Before its voluminous sutras, he silently prayed for the power of the Buddha’s blessings, to guide him to a path for learning and cultivation. Thereupon, the Sutra On Contemplation Of (The Buddha Of) Immeasurable Life’ (i.e. Contemplation Sutra) was picked, as he greatly rejoiced.
The Great Master then immersed into cultivation of the 16 contemplations according to the Contemplation Sutra. A few years later, his contemplation skill already reached the wonderful stage of Samadhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha, where he often saw the Land Of Ultimate Bliss within concentration, as if it was right before his eyes. This further fortified his Faith and Aspiration in learning and cultivating the Pure Land Dharma Door.
As the Great Master had great admiration for Great Master Huiyuan, he went to Mount Lu’s Donglin Monastery to express reverence to his legacy. Thereafter, he travelled around to seek and visit great masters with great virtues. In the Tang Dynasty’s Zhenguan’s 15 years (641 C.E.), at the age of 29, he heard about Great Master Daochuo, who was at Shanxi Jiaocheng propagating the Pure Land teachings. With no regard that it was a thousand miles away, he went forth to Xuanzhong Monastery as a visiting monk. At that time, Great Master Daochuo was already 80 years of age. Seeing how sincere and commendable the Great Master was, Great Master Daochuo imparted the Contemplation Sutra’s profound meaning to him, also enabling him to personally contemplate the nine grades of birth in Pure Land. The Great Master thus benefited with increased Faith and Aspiration, and was filled with immeasurable Dharma bliss. Henceforth, he was even more diligent in practice. Day and night without break, he prostrated, studied and recited the Pure Land scriptures.
After Great Master Daochuo entered parinirvana, the Great Master returned to Mount Zhongnan to immerse in cultivation. He then proceeded to Chang’an. At Ci’en Monastery, he widely propagated the Pure Land teachings, inspiring the fourfold assembly of Buddhist practitioners to be mindful of Amitabha Buddha for seeking birth in his Western Pure Land. When the Great Master was at Chang’an propagating the Dharma, countless monastics and lay devotees were touched and transformed. Among them, those who attained Samadhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha were numerous, and those with manifestation of auspicious signs of attaining birth in Pure Land when approaching the end of life were countless. Records on such accounts were too numerous to mention one by one. The magnificent accomplishment of the Great Master’s propagation of the Pure Land Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha was unprecedented.
During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, Buddhism greatly prospered, as Buddhist thought developed and diversified. Buddhists who embraced different thought naturally and gradually formed various schools (i.e. traditions). Succeeding Great Master Tanluan and Great Master Daochuo, Great Master Shandao faced the similar situation of other schools setting the criteria for birth in Pure Land’s nine grades to be too high. They injected notions of Noble Path Door’s Self-Power practice methods, and overlooked the Other-Power of Amitabha Buddha’s 48 great vows’ meritorious virtues for protecting and receiving sentient beings. In regard to Amitabha Buddha in his Pure Land being his Reward Body in his Reward Land, it was still not totally accepted. The Great Master straightforwardly pointed out, that these divergent commentaries and sub-commentaries did not agree with the sutras.
The Great Master taught that the nine grades of birth are all attainable by ordinary beings, by riding upon Amitabha Buddha’s great compassionate power of his vows. His stance is that since the sutras were taught by the Buddha, they should be seen as definitive truth. Commentaries however, are Bodhisattvas’ interpretations and elaborations, which might not be perfect, or have misunderstandings of the Buddha’s meaning. Comparing sutras with commentaries, sutras are of greater significance and importance, such that if they contradict each other, the sutras’ teachings should be taken as the accurate ones. This is especially so for the Pure Land Dharma Door, as its principles and practices, with its causes and effects are of the Buddha’s realm of fruition. They are truly beyond ordinary beings’ conceivability, even beyond Bodhisattvas’ scope of understanding. The method of horizontal liberation must not be equated to the method vertical liberation too. If standing from the perspective of Self-Powered Common Dharma Door ways to interpret the Pure Land teachings, mistakes will be difficult to avoid. This should also be seen as a reminder for us, that in this Dharma-Ending Age, we must use the Noble Speech Gauge as criteria, which is to take the sutras spoken by the Buddha and the words of the Pure Land Tradition’s Patriarchs as the basis for selecting the Dharma wisely, for according to. Otherwise, it is highly possible to mislead oneself and others, to lose the causes and conditions to be delivered.
The Great Master taught that the Contemplation Sutra also spoke of being complete with the Three Minds (or Hearts), to immediately be reborn in Pure Land. These Three Minds are the Utmost Sincere Mind, the Profound Mind and the Dedicated Aspiration Mind. Simply put, to have a non-false, truly earnest and passionately determined mind to be born in Pure Land, is the Utmost Sincere Mind. Not being inconclusive or indecisive, but having the straightforward mind, with deep Faith and without doubt, that never retrogresses, and remains unshaken under any circumstances, is the Profound Mind. Of good deeds done via body, speech and mind, regardless of worldly good or world-transcending good, with all dedicated for birth in Pure Land, not dedicating for human or heavenly blessings, thus always with Pure Land as a refuge, is the Dedicated Aspiration Mind.
In the Commentary On The Contemplation Sutra In Four Fascicles, the Great Master also taught the famous Parable On Two Rivers And The White Path, to skilfully describe our current plight and its only solution.
The Great Master reminded that although the Contemplation Sutra has Samadhi From Contemplation Of Buddha as the goal, it also has Samadhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha(‘s name – ‘Amituofo’) as the goal, and wholehearted dedicated Aspiration to be born in Pure Land as the direction. The essential body of the Pure Land scriptures is Amitabha Buddha’s name. His name is also a form, and this form is true form, with peaceful abiding upon his name implicitly agreeing with the wonderful path to skilfuly enter Non-Birth. In this Dharma-Ending Age and Age Of Defilements, other Dharma Doors are circuitous, out-of-the-way and difficult to accomplish, while only the Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha can lead to departure from the cycle of birth and death. Peacefully abiding upon this Dharma door, with Faith and Aspiration upholding Practice of mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha’s name, all will definitely accomplish right awakening.
As for resolving the question on Reward Buddha in Reward Land, the Great Master quoted from the Mahayana Sutra On Same Nature, the Immeasurable Life Sutra and the Contemplation Sutra, to once again, and conclusively prove that Amitabha Buddha in his Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss, is a Reward Buddha in his Reward Land. Thus was the doubt settled.
The Great Master set Pure Land as his final destination, with his personal practice to transform others, to also constantly have cultivation of pure karma for birth in Pure Land as priority. The Great Master was exceptionally diligent in his upholding of pure karma. Entering his room, he would thus kneel upright and recite the name of Amitabha Buddha, not resting till exhausted of energy. Even when the weather was cold, he would still practise, till he perspired, with this condition to express his utmost sincerity. For more than 30 years, he had no bed for sleep, with Pratyutpanna practice circumambulating and prostrating to the Buddha.
The Great Master delighted in alms-seeking every day. Carrying his bottle and alms bowl, he never asked others to wash them. Other than for washing them and bathing, he would never remove his robes. With strict precepts and dignified conduct as his personal standard, he never broke a single precept, even in the slightest. Never seeking worldly fame or fortune, even if devotees offered money, gifts and more, he would offer the best to the great assembly, only keeping the coarse for supporting himself. Wherever he went, he would clean himself before making offerings. As for dairy products, such as milk, cheese, butter and cream, he never drank or ate them. The Great Master lived 30 years in this way, teaching with his words and example, and staying far from all frivolous entertainment. With his strict practice of precepts, he received the four assemblies’ deep admiration and respect.
With such ardent diligence accumulated over days and months, his spiritual strength naturally became extraordinary. Once, before a great assembly, he demonstrated a marvellous auspicious sign – ‘With his mouth reciting the Buddha’s name once, one stream of bright light shone forth from his mouth; with 10 times, and even 100 to 1,000 recitations, the light was likewise thus.’ This was to encourage the great assembly to reverently recite the Buddha’s name, to diligently practise the path, and to seek birth in the Pure Land Of Peaceful Nurturing.
In the Great Master’s entire lifetime, he put all of his heart into propagating the Dharma, to enable the Buddha’s teachings to flourish. Whenever he saw or heard of damaged monasteries or abandoned pagodas yet to be rebuilt, he would immediately spare no efforts to offer everything to help the monasteries to flourish for propagation of the Dharma, to light the lamp of wisdom for perpetuating its brightness. The Great Master was also skilled in the art of constructing monasteries and statues. When he was at Xijing’s Shiji Monastery, he was decreed to oversee construction of the Vairocana Buddha statue at Loyang’s Longmen Grottoes.
In addition, he was also skilled in calligraphy and painting. He even used the money offered to him by devotees to fund the writing of over 100,000 scrolls of the Amitabha Sutra, and to paint over 300 murals of Pure Land’s scenes, for wide circulation and to aid propagation of the Pure Land Dharma Door.
According to Yuan Dynasty’s Donglin Monastery’s Abbot Great Master Youtan Pudu’s work, the Lotus Sect’s Treasury Of Reflections, Great Master Shandao climbed up the willow tree at front of the monastery where he lived, faced West and uttered these words of his Aspiration – ‘May the Buddha, with his majestic and supernormal power, swiftly come to receive me. May Guanyin and Shizhi (Bodhisattvas) also come to support me. Enable my mind not to lose right mindfulness, to not give rise to fear, and not, within Amitabha Buddha’s Dharma (in his Pure Land), be born lower or regress. May my life completed, be with my body upright on this tree.’ After the Great Master’s rebirth, his body was soft and supple, and his face radiant as usual, while extraordinary fragrance and music was present for a long time.
When the Tang Emperor Gaozong knew that the Great Master’s mindfulness of Buddha led to bright light shining from his mouth, as it was incomparably miraculous, he thus bestowed the monastery where the Great Master lived with an inscribed plaque named Monastery Of Bright Light (Guangming Monastery), which led later generations of Buddhists to call the Great Master the ‘Monk Of Bright Light’. As can be seen, the Great Master received royal veneration and the commoners’ reverence. After his rebirth, his disciple Venerable Huaiyun and others, buried his relics at Chang’an, and built a pagoda named Chongling Pagoda there. At its side, they expanded Guangming Monastery, which was later renamed as Xiangji Monastery.
The Great Master focused on propagating the Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha, to widely deliver sentient beings, to enter Amitabha Buddha’s ocean of great vows together. In the Song Dynasty, the Tiantai Tradition’s eminent Great Master Zongxiao for all Buddhist schools, listed their Patriarchs. He placed Great Master Shandao right after Mount Lu’s Great Master Huiyuan (who was named the Pure Land Tradition’s First Patriarch), as the Pure Land Tradition’s Second Patriarch.
Pictures are taken from the internet