Zhāng Yuánshòu [was a] Bìngzhōu person. [His] family [was] with killing [of] lives for livelihood.
[Note 1: As there are many other harmless occupations that can be chosen, even if they are more difficult and less profitable, there should not be taking up of butchery, which creates the worst negative karma directly.]
After both [his] parents died, Yuánshòu abstained [from] killing, focused [on] mindfulness [of] Āmítuófó, [and] dedicated [the meritorious virtues (功德) to] save [his] parents. [He] built [an] Āmítuófó image [of] three chǐs [i.e. about 0.99 metres], [to] make offerings [and] prostrate [before it].
[Note 2: Yuánshòu must have realised that there was too much killing done by his family, thus repenting on the behalf of everyone by no longer killing, and practising mindfulness of Buddha to dedicate meritorious virtues (merits), to help relieve his parents from possible suffering in a lower realm, and to expedite a better rebirth. He also made extra efforts by building a Buddha image for making offerings and prostrating, to express reverence, refuge and repentance.]
One night, [he] dreamt [that his] room within had light, [and in the] light within, riding [on] lotus thrones [were] more [than] twenty people. In the middle, two persons addressed Yuánshòu [by] saying, ‘We are your Father [and] Mother. Usually although also [with] mindfulness [of] Buddha, yet [with] killing [of] lives’ karma [being] heavy, [we] died [and] fell [in the] Wailing Hell. Although falling [into] hell, with [the] power [of] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [the] hot iron [and] smelted bronze [was] received [to be] like cool water.
[Note 3: If his parents had enough sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó in time just before rebirth, they would surely not fall into hell, but reach Pure Land directly instead. This can be known with the famous cases of Zhāng Shànhé (张善和) and Zhāng Zhōngkuí (张钟馗) in the same text, who were also with butchery as their livelihoods, even encountering ferocious karmic creditors manifesting from those they killed. Yet, these two butchers had enough sincere mindfulness of Āmítuófó in time before rebirth, thus avoiding fall into the deepest hell. (For more details, see their ‘Related Cases’ below.)]
[Note 4: Although the parents did have some practice of mindfulness of Buddha in everyday life, they must have not been sincere enough, for if they were, they would had connected to the Buddha, to be inspired to give up killing long ago. Yet, due to desperation in hell, their prior practice was enough to remind themselves to be sincerely mindful of Buddha, thus transforming their circumstantial retribution (依报) to be circumstantial reward. However, although with Faith then, it was still not yet with Aspiration to reach Pure Land.]
Yesterday, [there] was [a] Śramaṇa, [with] body height [of] three chǐs, [who] came [to] speak [the] Dharma. Those [of the] same karma, [of] more [than] twenty persons, heard [the] Dharma [and] all departed [from] hell, [and] will [be] reborn [in] Pure Land.
[Note 5: As the height of the Śramaṇa was the same as the Āmítuófó image that Yuánshòu built, it should be a manifestation of Āmítuófó, who is usually portrayed as a Śramaṇa. It could be that the parents did not see Āmítuófó’s image before, thus not recognising him. The Śramaṇa could also be a toned-down manifestation of Āmítuófó, who looked like an ordinary Śramaṇa, to karmically fit those with less positive karma seeing him. The Śramaṇa having the same height as the image also proved the efficacy of the efforts of Yuánshòu and his parents. The manifestation was to teach them to give rise to all Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) to be reborn in Pure Land.]
[Note 6: It is not possible to just ride upon merits dedicated by others’ chanting and more efforts, to automatically reach Pure Land. If this is possible, nothing would need to be done by oneself to personally reach Pure Land. Thus, there must be adequate personal efforts of practice too. However, this case shows that it is possible to sincerely dedicate mindfulness of Buddha, prayers, offerings, prostration and merits to others, for them to karmically deserve seeing of Āmítuófó’s manifestation, even in hell, to be guided (引导) to be mindful of him, to reach his Pure Land.]
[Note 7: As mentioned, merits dedicated are not enough for reaching Pure Land, (as often mistaken), as there must be guidance received for giving rise to the Three Provisions too. However, having more merits does make it easier to receive guidance. Thus, even if there cannot be direct guidance offered by oneself, there should be more merits created and dedicated to those who might be reborn in the three lower realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals. Also shown in this case, it helps that the hell-beings already have enough affinity with Āmítuófó.]
[Note 8: With their perfect compassion and wisdom combining to create skilful means, all Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas are always doing their utmost best to dedicate merits to all beings, and to guide all beings to Pure Land (and Buddhahood). However, due to many hell-beings’ lack of karmic affinity and great negative karmic constraints, Āmítuófó cannot manifest before all other hell-beings directly. Even if he does, it will have to be with toned-down forms, and they might not be able to receive his teachings as directly as wished. Thus, to facilitate the help of the enlightened, as we already have much karmic affinities with those we are concerned about, we should dedicate merits to them and guide them accordingly.]
With these causes [and] conditions, thus coming [to] tell [you so. Having] spoken already, towards [the] Western [Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss they] then went.
[Note 9: This case reminds all that even after death and having been reborn, even in hell, there is still hope of rescuing others, just as there is still hope of oneself being rescued. What needed are more efforts of the survivors and/or the deceased. The survivors should do more to offer merits and guidance, while the deceased should heed the guidance given, to be more sincerely mindful of Āmítuófó.]
(Triple Gem’s Correspondences’ Summaries)
(Record [Of] Pure Land’s Noble Sages):
Third Compilation: Fifth Addendum
Compiled [By] Dé Sēn
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Record Of Zhāng Shànhé’s Rebirth
Record Of Zhāng Zhōngkuí’s Rebirth
Record Of Mindfulness Of Buddha Leading To Resurrection And Birth In Pure Land
Verses On Guidance & Meritorious Virtues