How Long Is One To Ten Thoughts With Mindfulness Of Buddha?
Below is the seventh of the last seven questions and answers in the Rebirth Treatise’s Commentary’s Lower Scroll, as titled for easier reference.]
Question: How [much] time [is] named as one thought?
Answer: [A] hundred [and] one risings [and] fallings [of phenomena’ duration, is] named [as] one kṣaṇa [i.e. instant]. 60 kṣaṇas’ [duration is] named as one thought.
This within [the practice of mindfulness of Buddha], that [is] called thought, [does] not cling [to] this duration.
Only speaking [of] recollection [of] Āmítuófó, perhaps [of his] overall form, or [a] special form, according [to] that contemplated condition, [with the] mind [being] without other thoughts, [with] ten thoughts successively continual, [they are] named as ten thoughts.
[For notes on Āmítuófó’s vow that speaks on ten thoughts, see Note 2 and Note 3 at https://purelanders.com/2020/01/09/who-can-attain-birth-in-pure-land, with Note 4 at https://purelanders.com/2020/01/09/how-to-understand-two-sutras-teachings-on-attainment-of-birth-in-pure-land.]
Only reciting [Āmítuófó’s] name, [is] likewise thus.
Question: [The] mind, if [with] other conditions, [having] gathered it, [to] enable return, [one] can know of how many thoughts [there are].
However, [to] know how many [thoughts, is to] repeatedly not [be with] non-interruption [due to thoughts of counting].
If focusing [the] mind [to] concentrate thought [on the Buddha], again, depending [on this], how [is one] able [to] attain noting of how many thoughts?
Answer: That [the] sūtras speak [of on] ten thoughts, [should be] understood [as when the] karmic matter [of reaching Pure Land has been] accomplished, not needing [to] know [the] exact number [or to count it].
[Note 7: The ‘ten’ (十) in ‘ten thoughts’ is an arbitrary number that represents completion (十全十美) for connection, which can be accomplished with less or more thoughts (over more days). This is definitely so as in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra《无量寿经》, Śākyamuni Buddha taught that even with one thought (for proficient practitioners), it is able to completely connect to Āmítuófó for reaching his Pure Land — ‘All sentient beings, [who] hear that [Amitā(bha) Buddha’s] name [i.e. Āmítuófó], [with the] faithful mind [of] joy, even if [with] one thought, [with the] sincere mind dedicating, aspiring [to be] born [in] that land, [they will] immediately attain rebirth, [and] abide [upon] non-retrogression. Only excluded [are those with the] Five Heinous [Transgressions, who] slander [the] right Dharma.’ (诸有众生，闻其名号，信心欢喜，乃至一念，至心回向，愿生彼国，即得往生，住不退转。唯除五逆，诽谤正法。)]
[Just] like short-lived cicadas [do] not know spring [and] autumn [as they live and die in summer, of] yī worms, how [can they] know [the] season of autumn? [It is] those [who] know [them, who] speak of [this].
Those [with] ten thoughts’ karma accomplishing [reach of Pure Land], are likewise [by] those [with] supernormal powers [who know this, who] speak of [this].
Only accumulating thoughts successive continually, not conditioned [by] other matters, [with them] then dismissed, how again [is there] spare time [or] need [to] know [the] exact number of thoughts?
If [the number] must [be] known [during everyday practice], likewise are [there] skilful means. [There] must [be with the] mouth [or silently] counting. [There] must not [be with] raising of [a] pen [to note for] counting.
(Immeasurable Life Sūtra’s Upadeśa’s Verses [On] Aspiration [For] Birth: Upper Scroll)
Written [by] Vasubandhu Bodhisattva
Translation [by] Bodhiruci
Commentary [by] Great Master Tánluán
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
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