◎ 清 • 东瓜和尚
Qīng [Dynasty’s] Venerable Eastern [Winter] Melon [i.e. 冬瓜]
Venerable Winter Melon, [with] his name lost, [was with the] surname Sūn, [a] Hángzhōu person. [As he was] fond of eating winter melons, thus [was he] named. [He] left [the] household [life at] Huáyán’ān [i.e. Flower Adornment Monastery].
[His] personal conduct [was such that he mostly] kept silent, [while] all day touring [and] walking [in] streets [of the] city, [in] winter [and] summer without interruption. Passing more [than] ten years, [he was with] people not [able to] fathom him.
[Note 1: His frequent walking of the streets was not understood by others. Unknown by them, he was practising mindfulness of Buddha mentally while walking physically, with this as a form of walking meditation.]
[He was] with [the] neighbouring monastery’s monastic Huìzhào [as his] friend. [In the] month before [he was] going [to] depart, [he] told [Huì]zhào, ‘[On the lunar] new year’s first month’s sixth day, I [will be] leaving. You should come [to] send me [off].’
[Note 2: This is announcement of his ‘advanced knowing of the time of arrival’ (预知时至) in Pure Land, one of the most convincing auspicious signs (瑞相) (if truly departing on time). The timing is known by having fixed an appointment with Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛) himself, who will stay true to his word, by coming to receive and guide to his Pure Land then, as mutually agreed. While those able to have such proclamations come true prove they are indeed well-practised in mindfulness of Buddha, they also prove the efficacy of Pure Land practice to others less learned and practised, thus giving them greater confidence on what can be achieved.]
[Having] arrived at [the] date, [when the] Venerable visited Fǎhuì’ān [i.e Dharma Wisdom Monastery] [to receive veg(etari)an] alms [and] returned [to Huáyán’ān, he] saw [Huì]zhào, [who already] earlier [reached] there. [The Venerable] said, ‘Why [have] you come?’
[Huì]zhào laughed [and] said, ‘You and me [have an] appointment, [for me to] specially come, [to] send [off] each other.’ [The] Venerable said, ‘If it had not been for your words, [I would have] almost forgotten already!’
Thereupon washing up, bathing [and putting on] new clothes, [with] prostration [to the] Buddha completed, [he] said [to Huì]zhào, ‘Since leaving, [and as it] cannot [be] without [a] verse, for me, [please help to] write it.’
[Note 3: The writing of a ‘Verse When Approaching The End Of Life’ (临终偈) is a practice to offer a summation and/or last teaching to inspire those left behind, including future ‘descendants’ like us.]
[The] verse says,
‘All day walking [in the] neighbourhood,
[with the] mind within [having] mindfulness [of] Buddha busy.
[The] world’s people all [did] not recognise,
[that this] has another [kind of] heavenliness.’
[Note 4: Although he was walking around so much, he was doing just as much practice of mindfulness of Buddha. Even though others did not know what he was doing, his way of practice was blissful to him. (The last line can also be interpreted to mean that mindfulness of Buddha leads to Pure Land, which transcends worldly heavens.) This is a reminder that even while moving from one place to another, or stationary, while doing something mundane and routine, we can also practise mindfulness of Buddha in our minds. It is better to do this, than to occupy our minds with useless stray thoughts most of the time. Not only is this not strenuous when practised well, it can be enjoyable, with blessings of the Buddha. Of course, it would be better to also take more time aside, to practise only mindfulness of Buddha wholeheartedly daily, without doing anything else, to minimise distraction and to maximise concentration. This is especially important for beginners, who might otherwise only practise mindfulness of Buddha half-heartedly, while doing other matters equally half-heartedly, thus being well-accomplished in neither.]
Joyfully, [he] then departed. ([From] ‘Collection [On Being] Perfumed [By] Fragrance’)
[Note 5: Although the appointment was almost totally forgotten, the Venerable was still able to swiftly let go of all worldly matters when reminded, and depart with ease for Pure Land as scheduled, after taking his time to prepare and fulfil what he should. This further highlights his great ease.]
[Note 6: It is possible to be very mindful of Buddha, yet not so mindful of worldly dates and events! Yet, those who truly have ‘advanced knowing of the time of arrival’ in Pure Land will be able to depart in time. Even if they forget, there will be reminders from others, including by Bodhisattvas and the Buddha. However, there are some cases of delays due to matters yet to be settled, though still with announcements of these delays in advance.]
Commentary: [With the] time arrived, yet forgetting [the] return date, previously [seen] was [Venerable] Dàozhèng[‘s case], until now, again seeing [a similar case]. How [are] they [able to have liberation from the cycle of] life [and] death, unobstructed [and with ease]?
[Note 7: If the Venerable was manifested from Pure Land to set an example of how practice can be done, he can be said to have returned to Pure Land. If he was not from Pure Land, he can be said to have returned ‘home’ to his Buddha-nature (佛性) via reaching Pure Land. As all who reach Pure Land will definitely become enlightened swiftly, being born there is as if ‘already’ liberated from worldly rebirth. The previous case mentioned can be seen in the first ‘Related Case‘ below.]
Yet [when] examining why they [were able to] attain this [ease, it is] without another [reason, than having their] minds [and the] Buddha corresponding thus.
[Note 8: Such great ease of departing for Pure Land as scheduled arises from already having strong and ready connection with the Buddha through proficient practice in everyday life.]
[Of] today’s people’s mindfulness of Buddha’s efforts, [with each] day only [for a] short time, moreover not able [to be] wholehearted [with] their minds [aspiring] for [birth in the Land Of] Peaceful Nurturing, yet also [with] desire [and] hope [for] those auspicious responses [when] approaching [the] end [of life, they are then] difficult [to arise]!
[Note 9: Although Venerable Winter Melon appeared to be excessively idling with his everyday walks, he was actually very consistent and diligent with his practice, for over a decade. Thus was he able to depart with great ease, in advance escaping from the ill effects of ageing, sickness and death. Therefore, we should also have longer sustained practice sessions to better nurture and express our sincere Aspiration for reaching Pure Land.]
(Record [Of] Pure Land’s Noble Sages):
续编卷一 • 往生比丘第一
Continued Compilation’s Scroll One: First [Section On] Reborn Bhikṣus
Compiled [By] Hú Tǐng
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Records Of Venerable Dàozhèng’s & Méisōng’s Rebirths
Classic Cases Of Rebirth With Ease
Record Of Huáng Shēng’s Rebirth
A Classic Case Of Initial Scatter-Minded Mindfulness Of Buddha
More Chinese-English Cases
Record [Of] Pure Land’s Noble Sages