[It should] be known [that being] willing [to be] mindful [of] Buddha [is] certainly good, [but for those] not willing [to be] mindful, for them speaking [of it, to let] them attain listening [of the] Buddha’s name, [this] likewise plants good roots.
[Having] listened [to it for] long, likewise has great meritorious virtues.
Wúxī recently [has] extremely many [of] those [who practise] mindfulness [of] Buddha.
[As] a person knows [how to] cook veg[etari]an dishes, all [who are] holding seven-day [mindfulness of] Buddha [retreats], all asked him [to] cook dishes [for them, with] him every day listening [to their] sounds [of] mindfulness [of] Buddha.
Later, [when] his son [was] about [to] die, [he] immediately said, ‘I am [going to] die, however not able [to] go to [a] good place. [If] you give your “Buddhas” [to] me, I will [be able to] go to [a] good place.’
[Note 1: This is a simple way of requesting for dedication of meritorious virtues (i.e. merits) from much mindfulness of Buddha, to have a good rebirth, with the best being in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. Somehow, perhaps with supernormal inspiration and instruction, the son knew to ask his father for merits.]
His father said, ‘[As] I [do] not [practise] mindfulness [of] Buddha, how are [there] “Buddhas” [to give you]?’
[Note 2: This is an honest reply of not having practised mindfulness of Buddha at all, at least not even once mindfully in this life so far.]
His son said, ‘You [have] many “Buddhas”. You only need [to] say [it] once, [and] I will [be able to] go well.’
[Note 3: This request again, is probably from supernormal inspiration and instruction, as the son somehow knew that his father had many ‘Buddhas’, even if the latter was not aware of this. His request for him to just ‘say it once’, to give him his ‘Buddhas’, is a simple way of requesting expression of agreeability to dedicate merits, without need to recite any traditional Dedication Verse. There was also no time for further teaching and learning then.]
That person said, ‘If that is the case, [of] how many you want, [do] take how many.’
[Note 4: This is in spirit, the expression of dedication of all merits needed by another.
Note 5: However, according to the Earth Treasury [Kṣitigarbha] Sūtra《地藏经》, it is a natural law that only one-seventh (1/7) of merits personally created can be dedicated to others. It is thus better for oneself to also create merits with personal Dharma practices.
Note 6: Interestingly, even dedication of merits is itself further meritorious. In this sense, that offered to others generously is never really ‘gone’.]
His son [then] immediately died.
[Note 7: Once with dedication of merits, the son was able to clear much negative karma that caused otherwise more prolonged suffering, to depart swiftly for a good rebirth.
Note 8: If he had the Three Provisions (三资粮), he would be reborn in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. If not, he would have a good human or heavenly rebirth.
If he already knew about the Three Provisions, he probably would had practised mindfulness of Buddha personally earlier already. If so, he was perhaps using the opportunity to inspire his father with the power of mindfulness of Buddha.
Note 9: It should be noted that no one can directly dedicate merits to another to reach Pure Land, as the latter must at least be guided to personally give rise to the Three Provisions, as the minimal criteria to reach Pure Land. However, merits dedicated can alleviate suffering, and facilitate a higher grade of birth.]
[The father] personally said, ‘[As] I did not [practise] mindfulness [of] Buddha, how is it that [I] have “Buddhas”?’
[A] person [with] understanding said, ‘[As] you, when cooking dishes, [at] those houses [where you] stayed, [being] near [the] places [with] mindfulness [of] Buddha every day, [you] constantly listened [to] everyone [practising] mindfulness [of] Buddha, thus likewise having great meritorious virtues.’
[Note 10: Although the father did not practise mindfulness of Buddha intentionally, he did so incidentally, simply by listening, although also with many positive karmic conditions to do so.
Note 11: His compassionate cooking for supporting those practising mindfulness of Buddha also created more merits.]
This relates [to] those without intention listening. If [with the] attentive mind listening, [the] meritorious virtues [are] even greater.
[Note 12: On one hand, listening to the Buddha’s name unintentionally creates merits, while listening to it attentively creates even more merits.
On the other hand, reciting the Buddha’s name unintentionally also creates merits, while reciting the Buddha’s name sincerely creates even more merits.
Combining the best of possibilities above, reciting and listening to the Buddha’s name sincerely and attentively creates the most merits.
Note 13: It should be noted that, especially for the old, sick and dying who are running out of energy, even sincere listening to the Buddha’s name IS the same in effect as sincere reciting of the Buddha’s name, as both express sincerity and mindfulness.
Thus, there should not be forcing of them to recite aloud when they find it increasingly hard to do so, informing them instead, that they can simply listen sincerely if they wish.
If they are not able to recite aloud, while being pressured and troubled by this, it might disrupt their confidence to reach Pure Land, and give up mindfulness of Buddha entirely.
Of course, if they are still able to, and wish to muster their final energy to recite aloud right to their last breaths, this is remarkable and strong expression of sincerity and mindfulness. However, there should not be attachment to wanting to do so, lest physical conditions do not allow this.]
Reciting sūtras however, [is] without having repeated text, [thus] not able [to, with] line [by] line listening, attain understanding [easily]. Even if [with the] attentive mind listening, [it is] likewise difficult [to do so] clearly. Moreover [so, if] without intention.
[Note 14: As sūtra texts are longer and only sometimes with reiterated concepts, with their words and meanings changing as they are recited, it is more challenging to listen to them with clear understanding. Especially if listening without intention, it is harder for their text to be registered in the mind.]
[Thus, it] can [be] known [that the] meritorious virtues of mindfulness [of] Buddha [are] especially excellent.
[Note 15: Other than being especially excellent in effect, they are also especially skilful in how such effects can be caused.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(9th Reply Letter To Laywoman Zhāng Juémíng)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Above Part Of Letter:
Why Use Āmítuófó’s Name To Plant Good Roots?
Āmítuófó’s Name As The Ultimately Non-Retrogressive Vajra Seed
Mindfulness Of Buddha Is Without Use Of Energy In Vain
Can Dedication Of Merits Solve Problems?