Translations

Should Those Practising Mindfulness Of Buddha Uphold Mantras? 念佛人可持咒吗?

念佛之人,亦非不可持咒。

Of people [who practise] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [it is] also not [that they] should not uphold mantras.  

[Note 1: They can uphold mantras sincerely too, such as the Rebirth Mantra《往生咒》and other appropriate mantras, as long as they do so with the same Faith and Aspiration for birth in Pure Land. It should not be mistaken that chanting the Rebirth Mantra is a must for rebirth in Pure Land, as mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha’s name (i.e. Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛) will do too. It should also not be mistaken that the Rebirth Mantra is to be chanted only for rebirth in Pure Land, as it is also for expressing refuge in Āmítuófó, praise to him and for clearing karmic obstacles – all of which and more can be done with mindfulness of his name too.]

但须主助分明,则助亦归主。

[They] however must [have the] Main [Practice and] Supportive [Practice(s)] clear [and] distinct [from each other], then [with] Supportive [Practices] also returning [to the] Main [Practice].

[Note 2: For reaching Pure Land, upholding the name (持名) of Āmítuófó with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿) is the Main Practice (主要修行;正行), for which there should be more time and effort exerted. All other Dharma practices should be considered optional Supportive Practices (助行), for supporting by dedicating to the Main Practice’s key purpose.]

若泛泛然无所分别,一目视之,则主亦非主矣。

If superficially [and not penetrating deeply into one practice], without those [two practices] differentiated, [with] a glance of [them], then [is the] Main [Practice] also not [the] Main [Practice].

[Note 3: It is unwise to be superficial in many practices, without penetrating deeply into one as the Main Practice. It is also unwise to try to penetrate deeply into many practices, also without focusing on one as the Main Practice – as there is limited time and effort in this life for too many practices. It is thus wise to penetrate most deeply into one practice, which is then the Main Practice. We should not be the proverbial ‘Jack of all trades; master of none’. The Main Practice we should have is the one we will also finally practise with direct ease and focus when departing from this life, which others will also offer support for. As it is impossible to ‘focus’ on many practices when about to depart, for Pure Land practitioners, the Main Practice is clearly mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name, that should be mastered in this life, and for (immeasurable) life.]

《准提》、《大悲》,岂有优劣。

[Of the] Zhǔntí [Spiritual Mantra《准提神咒》and the] Great Compassion [Mantra《大悲咒》], how can [they] have [that] superior [and] inferior?  

[Note 4: As mantras are summations of all teachings, as expressed in various ways, they are technically equally efficacious. Thus, to claim otherwise, that one mantra is superior to another, is not only slander of the mantra compared with, but the Dharma on the whole. Such false claims are due to lack of Faith and understanding in the mantras slandered against.]  

心若至诚,法法皆灵。

[The] mind, if [with] utmost sincerity, all Dharma [practices are then] all efficacious.

[Note 5: Utmost sincerity is the key to success in all Dharma practices, including mindfulness of Buddha and upholding of mantras, for various purposes, such as attaining blessings for protection, clearing of karmic obstacles and so on. However, it should be noted that the (brevity or) length of the names of Buddhas and (Bodhisattvas, including) mantras, can affect the average practitioner’s ease and efficiency of upholding them well.]

心不至诚,法法不灵。

[The] mind, [if] not [with] utmost sincerity, all Dharma [practices are then] not efficacious.

[Note 6: A possible expression of the lack of utmost sincerity, which arises from lack of Faith, is when there is frequent switching of practices, between various mantras and/or names of Buddhas (and Bodhisattvas). This naturally leads to the illusion that this or that practice is seemingly not so efficacious. There should be more sincere learning, which will lead to growth in Faith, and in turn utmost sincerity in practice. More direct practice with as much sincerity as one can muster can lead to growth in Faith too.]

一句佛号,包括一大藏教,罄无不尽。

[The] one line [of the] Buddha’s name [i.e. Āmítuófó], includes [all of the] whole great [sūtra] treasury’s teachings, [which] cannot [be] exhausted completely.

[Note 7: Actually, according to the Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitābha Buddha’s Fundamental Esoteric Spiritual Mantra《佛说阿弥陀佛根本秘密神咒经》, although extremely concise, the name of Āmítuófó is already a supreme dhāraṇī and mantra, that contains all mantras –

‘Amitābha Buddha’s name [i.e. Āmítuófó] is complete with immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable, extremely profound, esoteric, excellent, subtle, wonderful and unsurpassable meritorious merits. Why is this so? Within the three words of “Ā-Mí-Tuó (Tā)” Buddha, are the ten directions’ and the three periods’ all Buddhas, all Bodhisattvas, Śrāvakas, Arhats, all sūtras, dhāraṇīs, spiritual mantras and immeasurable practice methods. Therefore, that Buddha’s name, is the same as the unsurpassable true and most ultimate Dharma of the Great Vehicle [i.e. Mahāyāna], the same as the unsurpassable excellent, pure, definitive and wonderful practice, the same as the unsurpassable most supreme, subtle and wonderful dhāraṇī.’「阿弥陀佛名号具足无量无边、不可思议、甚深秘密、殊胜微妙、无上功德。所以者何?『阿弥陀』佛三字中,有十方三世一切诸佛,一切诸菩萨、声闻、 阿罗汉,一切诸经、陀罗尼、神咒、无量行法。是故彼佛名号,即是为无上真实至极大乘之法,即是为无上殊胜清净了义妙行,即是为无上最胜微妙陀罗尼。」

In this sense, it is a false dichotomy and pointless to debate or wonder if mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name is more or less efficacious for any purpose, when compared with any other mantra.]

净土宗十三祖印光大师
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
《复永嘉某居士书一》
(First Reply Letter [To A] Certain Yǒngjiā Layperson)

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

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