Regardless [of being] at home [or] in monasteries, [there] must [be] respect [of those] above [and] harmony [with those] below.
Note : Even for the lowly and disagreeable, there should be respect of their hidden Buddha-nature, thus with harmony, in hope that they can discover their Buddha-nature, or that we can help them do so.
Bear [with] that people [are] not able [to] bear, [and] practise that people [are] not able [to] practise.
Note : What should be borne patiently should be borne patiently, even if others are not able to do so. What should be practised should be practised, even if others are not able to do so.
On behalf of others’ efforts, [help to] accomplish [their] good deeds.
Note : Whenever possible, assist in helping others to do good, and to be pure. This itself assists us to do good, and to be pure.
Sitting quietly, often consider one’s faults, [and when] chatting, [do] not discuss others’ rights [and] wrongs.
Note : If not frequently reflecting upon our own mistakes, we are likely to continue making mistakes, or make worse ones. The only exception for discussion of others’ right and wrongs that is constructive would be for finding ways to help them to realise their mistakes. All other ‘discussions’ are either useless, or are with destructive gossip and speculation.
[When] walking, standing, sitting [and] lying down, wearing clothes [and] eating meals, from dawn till dusk, [and] from dusk till dawn, [of the] one line [of the] Buddha’s name, [do] not allow [it to be] interrupted.
Note : Mindfulness of Buddha can be practised with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿) in all postures, when doing all activities, and at all times, as much as possible, so as to permeate our lives with the purest mindfulness. Other than scattered mindfulness (散心念) practised while doing something else, there should also be focused mindfulness (专心念) practised too, when doing nothing else, so as to grow in wholehearted concentration.
Perhaps softly reciting, or silently reciting, other [than] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [do] not give rise [to] other thoughts.
Note : Silent recitation is more appropriate in some situations, such as when eating and lying down, the latter of which can harm breathing if done for long (according to another teaching by the Great Master). When situations are deemed disrespectful or hard to be sincere, recitation should be ceased, practised softer or silently.
If perhaps false thoughts once arise, immediately make them disappear.
Note : The way to overcome stray thoughts is to not create more stray thoughts about them, but by eradicating them immediately, with return to wholehearted mindfulness of Buddha.
Always give rise [to a] shameful heart, and give rise [to a] repentful heart.
Note : It is only when we have self-reflection, that there can be healthy moral shame, for recognising our defiled ways, so as to give rise to remorse, to repent sincerely, and to make amends.
Even if having cultivation, always feel [that] my skills [are] very shallow, [and] never self-boast.
Note : As long as we are not yet Buddhas, we should see our practice to be lowly, having no ground to be arrogant at all. This is while the Buddhas who have perfected their practice with realisation of non-self are not prideful at all. Why then, should we ever be proud?
Only managing oneself, [do] not manage others.
Note : Of course, if it is within our means to help others, we should. However, the priority should always be to manage ourselves well first. If we do not manage ourselves well enough, how can we help others well?
Only looking [at] good examples, [do] not look [at] bad examples.
Note : Instead of deliberately focusing on bad examples to do fault-finding to no end, which does no one any good, we should focus on recognising good examples to inspire our learning and practice. Being good examples as a result can inspire bad examples to be good too.
See all people as Bodhisattvas, only [with] myself one person truly as [an] ordinary being.
Note : To imagine all to be manifested Bodhisattvas teaching you as the only non-Bodhisattva to be better with their good examples, and to not be worse with their bad examples is a powerful way to humbly learn from everyone.
You, if able [to] rely [on] that I [have] said and practise, definitely can [be] born [in the] Western Land [Of] Ultimate Bliss.
Note : With the above understanding and attitude in practice, Pure Land certainly will be within reach.
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
First Reply Letter To Layperson Yè Fúbèi
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an