D2: Inquiry [And] Explanation [Of] Sūtra’s Title
[Sūtra]: [Śākyamuni Buddha]: Śāriputra, what [do] you think? For what reason [is this] named as [the] ‘Sūtra With All Buddhas’ Mindful Protection’? Śāriputra, if [there] are good men [and] good women, who hear this sūtra, accept [and] uphold it, and hear all [these] Buddhas’ names, all these good men [and] good women [will], by all Buddhas, be mindfully protected, [and] all attain non-retrogression for Anuttarā Samyak Saṃbodhi. [This] is why, Śāriputra, you [and] all others should faithfully accept my words, and what all Buddhas say.
[Note 1: Although the Buddha asked Śāriputra the question for reflection and attention, of course the Buddha already knew the answer. He also knew that Śāriputra, though the foremost in wisdom among the Arhats, is not yet a Buddha, thus not able to answer. Therefore, the Buddha immediately replied to share the answer with all in the assembly, including us.
Note 2: The Amitā[bha] Sūtra’s full name, as earlier mentioned six times by all directions’ Buddhas in this sūtra, is the ‘Sūtra [With] Praises [Of] Inconceivable Meritorious Virtues [And] All Buddhas’ Mindful Protection’《称赞不可思议功德一切诸佛之所护念》. As some of these inconceivable meritorious virtues were already explained and praised, even earlier in this sūtra (in 4 main parts) by the Buddha, thus is the Buddha now teaching the meaning of the second half of the sūtra’s name.
Note 3: To truly hear this sūtra (闻是经), is to give rise to Faith (信). To truly receive (受) it is to give rise to Vow (愿: Aspiration to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land). To truly uphold his name (持名) is to have Practice (行) of mindfulness of Buddha (念佛). Thus should these Three Provisions (三资粮) be given rise to, to be truly good men (善男子) and good women (善女人).
Note 4: ‘All [these] Buddhas’ names’ (诸佛名) refer to the 38 names of the six-directional Buddhas in the six preceding sections of this sūtra. However, the main method of upholding this sūtra is to uphold the name of Āmítuófó, which represents all Buddhas names, as his name in its most basic form of ‘Amitā Buddha (阿弥陀佛)’ means ‘Immeasurable Buddhas (无量佛)’. Thus, to ‘hear all [these] Buddhas’ names’ (闻诸佛名) means to ‘hear Āmítuófó’s name’ (闻阿弥陀佛名) too, which actually suffices, even if many other Buddhas’ names are not heard. This also works as Āmítuófó is the Dharma Realm’s Treasury Body (法界藏身), that is the Dharmakaya (法身: Dharma Body) that universally encompasses all Buddhas as one, pervading all space and time.
Note 5: In a later section, the Buddha says, ‘as I now, praise all Buddhas’ inconceivable meritorious virtues, all those other Buddhas, also praise my inconceivable virtues.’ (如我今者，赞叹诸佛不可思议功德，彼诸佛等，亦称赞我不可思议功德) ‘All Buddhas’ (诸佛) first refers to Āmítuófó, as in this sūtra, his inconceivable meritorious virtues are those repeatedly praised, as it focuses upon him. Even the other Buddhas mentioned were praising him. The reciprocation of praise of Śākyamuni Buddha by ‘all those other Buddhas’ (彼诸佛等) for speaking this Dharma emphasizes that they represent Āmítuófó too.
Note 6: Thus, to be mindful of Āmítuófó’s name is to be mindful of all Buddhas in a focused way, without loss of any benefits. This is how mindfulness of him connects to, and receives the mindful protection of all Buddhas. As long as such mindfulness does not retrogress, progress for Buddhahood does not retrogress too. Since this is assured by all Buddhas, who are the best reference for truth, it should be believed in and upheld.]
[Explanation]: [As] this sūtra uniquely explains [the] unsurpassable mind’s essence, all Buddhas’ names [mentioned], also explain [its] unsurpassable perfect, complete [and] ultimate ten thousand virtues. Thus [are] those [who] hear [them, are] all by all Buddhas mindfully protected.
Also, hearing [this] sūtra, [to] receive [and] uphold [it], is the same as [to] uphold [the] name. Āmítuófó’s [阿弥陀佛] name, [is] thus that [which] all Buddhas mindfully protect.
Question: [If] only hearing all Buddhas’ names, and yet [to] uphold [this] sūtra, [does this] also attain mindful protection [for] non-retrogression?
Answer: These meanings have [that which is] partial, [and that which is] complete.
[The] ‘Sūtra [On] Divination [And] Observation [Of] Good [And] Evil Karmic Results’《占察善恶业报经》says, ‘[With] mixed, scattered [and] defiled mind, although reciting my name, [is] not yet [the same] as hearing [it].
With [this], not able [to] give rise [to] definitive faith [and] understanding, [it] only obtains worldly good rewards, not attaining broad [and] great, profound [and] wonderful benefits.’
If reaching [the] Samādhi [Of] One Practice [by mindfulness of Buddha], thus accomplishes [the] mind [of] broad [and] great, subtle [and] wondrous practice, [that is] named [as] attainment [of the Stage Of] Resemblance [To Buddha’s] Dharma Forbearance [Of] Non-Birth, [this is] then as attainment [of] hearing [the] ten directions’ Buddhas’ names.
This [sūtra’s teaching] also corresponds like that. Thus needing hearing, [to] already firmly uphold [Āmítuófó’s name] wholeheartedly without [being] scattered, [this is] then as hearing all Buddhas’ names, [to] receive all Buddhas’ mindful protection. This [is the] partial meaning.
[On the] complete meaning, all Buddhas [have] loving-kindness [and] compassion, [that are] inconceivable, [with their] names’ meritorious virtues, also [being] inconceivable.
Thus, once hearing [a] Buddha’s name, regardless [of] with intention [or] without intention, if [with] Faith, or not, all [will] accomplish [the] seed [as] condition [for mindful protection].
Moreover, [as the] Buddhas deliver sentient beings, without discriminating [between] enemies [and] relatives, constantly [and] without weariness, if [there are those who] hear Buddhas’ names, [the] Buddhas [will] definitely mindfully protect [them]. Again, what doubt [is there]?
However, according to [the] ‘Vajra [i.e. Diamond Sūtra’s] Three Treatises’, Bodhisattvas [with good] roots mature by Buddhas’ mindfully protected, [are of the] Separate [Teachings’ Stage Of First] Ground (别教初地), [or the] Complete [Teachings’ Stage Of First] Abode (圆教初住).
[This] coverage [is] restricted [to those with only] Self-power, [who] must enter [the] Same Natural Disposition [of Buddhas]. Then can [they be] mindfully protected.
[Note 7: The opposite, which is Different Natural Disposition (异生性), is the nature of ordinary sentient beings.]
Now relying [upon the] Other-power [of Āmítuófó], thus [is with the] Stage [Of] Resemblance, [this] immediately receives mindful protection.
And even [those] yet [to be] with [the Stage Of] Resemblance, [will] also all have [this] mindful protection as meant.
Down to [only] once hearing [a] Buddha’s name, [being] of [the] same body [of] Dharma-nature, [it] has power [as a] resource [for further] development, [thus] also attaining [the] distant cause [for] non-retrogression [towards Buddhahood].
[Note 8: As ordinary sentient beings (i.e. us) and fully enlightened beings (i.e. Buddhas) have the same Buddha-nature, with that of the first yet to be realised, and the latter’s fully realised, a Buddha’s name heard can serve as the seed of the path (道种) to Buddhahood, that when given more supportive conditions (助缘) for growth later, in the present life or a future life, is able to bear fruit eventually.]
[On] ‘Anuttarā’, this [is] said [to be the] ‘Unsurpassable’. [On] ‘Samyak Saṃbodhi], this [is] said [to be] ‘Right Equal [And] Right Awakening’. [This] is the same as [the] Great Vehicle’s fruit [of] awakening.
Complete [with the] Three Non-Retrogressions [of Stage (of Bodhisattvahood) Without Retrogression (位不退), Practice (of the Bodhisattva path) Without Retrogression (行不退), and Mindfulness Without Retrogression (念不退), this is] then ‘[in] one lifetime accomplishing Buddhahood’, [as] differently named.
[Note 9: It is possible to ideally depart for Pure Land without first dying, thus reaching Pure Land to realise the Three Non-Retrogressions, to directly progress towards and attain Buddhahood in this very same lifetime. It is however also possible to depart for Pure Land after death, in the intermediate (or bardo) state between death and rebirth, although more risky, as the wind of karma are then likelier to sweep one to be reborn back in the Sahā World.]
Thus [is there] encouragement [of] Śariputra [and] all others, [who] should faithfully receive [this].
Hearing [the] name’s meritorious virtues thus, that Śākya[muni Buddha] and all [the] ten directions’ Buddhas together proclaimed, how [can this] not [be] believed?
[The] first encouragement [of] Faith’s transmission [is now] complete.
– Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì
(Essential Explanation [Of The] Sūtra [In Which The] Buddha Speaks [Of] Amitā[bha] Buddha)
Next Section: The Principle Of ‘Vow Now For Birth Now’
Why Is Amituofo’s Name Thus?
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an