[34] Record Of The Old Woman Who Did Not Pay Attention To A Hundred Matters 百不管老媪记


◎ 清百不管老媪
Qīng [Dynasty’s] Old Woman [Who Did] ‘Not Pay Attention [To A] Hundred [Matters]’


[The] old woman [who did] ‘Not Pay Attention [To A] Hundred [Matters’, with] her surname lost, [was a] Hángzhōu person. [She] once asked of Xiàocí [i.e. Filial Loving-kindness] Monastery’s Venerable Dàoyuán, saying, ‘Cultivating which Dharma Door, [will I in this] one lifetime definitely depart [from] suffering’s ocean?’

[Note 1: This is a very wise and practical question that all should seek the answer to. This is so as life is short and full of suffering now. If it ends sooner than expected or suddenly, while one is still not liberated, one will only return to suffer more in the next life. (Any Dharma Door that is forgotten in the next life will be as if useless then, if not relearnt and re-practised.) What more, as she was already old, seeking the answer was even more urgent and important for her.]


[The] Venerable said, ‘[It is] none other [than] mindfulness [of] Buddha. Although mindfulness [of] Buddha [is] not [really] difficult, yet [that] difficult [is] in upholding [it] long. Upholding [it] long [is] not [really] difficult, yet [that] difficult [is] in [being] wholehearted. You, if able [to be with] all not paid attention [to, with the] focused mind upholding [the Buddha’s] name, [with] utmost sincerity giving rise [to the] Aspiration [to be] reborn [in his Pure Land, when] approaching [the] end [of life, the] Buddha [will] come [to] receive [and] guide [you, to] immediately attain departure [from] suffering’s ocean.’

[Note 2: The answer is clear and definite. It is only with the Dharma Door of mindfulness of Buddha, that we can all depart from suffering in this lifetime. To practise well, there should be sustainability and wholeheartedness. To do so, there should be letting go of all worldly matters, at least during practice sessions, to focus only on sincere reciting of the Buddha’s name and sincere listening to it. If there is profound Faith and sincere Aspiration within this practice, the Buddha will be connected to for parting from suffering in good time.]


[The] old woman joyfully prostrated [to] thank, [and upon] return [home], immediately with family matters, delegated [to her] son, [his] wife [and] others. [She] opened [a] clean room [for] making offerings [to the] Buddha, [and for] cultivating upholding [of the Buddha’s name] within it.

[Note 3: What should be emulated by all is her earnestness in seeking sound advice, along with her joyfulness, gratefulness and immediateness in heeding it. As long as worldly matters can be delegated properly, it is not irresponsible, especially for the old, to do so. In fact, for the elderly to have more peace of mind for better spiritual practice, there should be earlier delegation. This is a kind of renunciation of worldly life, though not necessarily at the same level as that of those leaving the household life.]


More [than a] year [later, she] again asked [the] Venerable, ‘Since receiving [your] teachings, [your] disciple [had] given up housework, [to] focus [on] practising mindfulness [of] Buddha. Self-questioning, [I] also can [be] said [to be with practice] long and without [being] lax, but [it was with] suffering, [with the] difficulty of [being] wholehearted. Will teacher again be with teachings [for] me?’

[Note 4: What stated is the classic challenge, to be wholehearted in practice.]


[The] Venerable said, ‘You although [having] discarded housework, yet [on your] children, grandchildren [and] family members, [you are with] eager attention. [As] this [is] then [with] attachment’s root yet [to be] uprooted, how [can you be] wholehearted? You now [should be] even more diligent. First uprooting attachment’s root, with all let go [of, you will] thereafter [be] able [to] attain wholeheartedness.’

[Note 5: When wishing to practise mindfulness of Buddha wholeheartedly, there should be letting go of thoughts of everything else first, before upholding the Buddha’s name. Once a stray thought arises and is noticed, there should be immediate return to sincere reciting of the name, with sincere listening to it.]

[Note 6: Note that this is not about not caring for family members; just not thinking about them during practice. If toggling between mindfulness of Buddha and mindfulness of family, neither will be fruitful. Also, true and complete long-term care for family members is expressed by ensuring oneself will reach Pure Land, thereafter able to return to better care for family members, by guiding them to reach Pure Land too. Any other kind of care will only be worldly, thus not lasting.]


[The] old woman sighed [and] said, ‘Teacher’s words are [true]. I, although not paying attention to [them] physically, [I was] not able [to] not pay attention to [them] mentally. From now, [I] will truly not pay attention [to a] hundred [matters], thereupon [becoming] all the more diligent.’

[Note 7: Although she was not tending to her attachments physically, she was ‘tending’ to them mentally.]


[When her] mind [of] attachment accidentally moved, [she would] immediately silently uphold these three [i.e. seven in English] words [of] ‘Not Pay Attention [To A] Hundred [Matters]’, with [them] self-expelling [it]. Perhaps [when] consulted [with] regard [to] family matters, also relying [on] these three words, [saying them to] reject all. Thereupon, [the] name of ‘Not Pay Attention [To A] Hundred [Matters]’ spread [to] relatives [and] village within.

[Note 8: Her method was to quickly use the three words to remind herself to not pay attention to what she is not supposed to, thereafter returning to mindfulness of Buddha.]


Thus, she again, [after] more [than a] year one day, visited [the] monastery [to] thank, saying, ‘Teacher [did] not [have] me deceived, [as your] disciple’s going [to the] West [will] be [on a] day [coming soon].’ Several days later, without sickness then departing, [this was] Jiāqìng [Emperor’s] first year’s [i.e. 1796 C.E] matter. (Collection [On Being] Perfumed [By] Fragrance)

[Note 9: She was announcing her knowing in advance of the time of her arrival (预知时至) in Pure Land. This is perhaps the most convincing auspicious sign (瑞相) that can be offered by those departing for Pure Land. If the exact day and time were given, it would be even more convincing. Although she was old, she still departed before dying from any severe sickness.]


Commentary: ‘Not Pay Attention [To A] Hundred [Matters’ is just a] nickname. Extrapolating [to] speak of [this], then [from a] hundred until [a] thousand [matters, from a] thousand until ten thousand [matters, with] all [of] those not paid attention [to]. Abbreviating [to] speak of [this, as it is] immediately [with even] one [matter] also not paid attention [to], how [can there] be [those] of [a] hundred? Able [to do] thus, [worldly] dusts’ conditions can then [be] severed. [If] able [to do] thus, pure karma can then [be] accomplished. Alas! How can worldly people, all [be] like this, [to] ‘Not Pay Attention [To A] Hundred [Matters’ too]?

[Note 10: Since ‘the ten thousand kinds of things cannot be brought away’ (万般带不去) when we depart, we should train to ‘let go of the ten thousand conditions’ (万缘放下) now, whenever we practise. Not paying attention to a ‘hundred’ matters means to 100% let go of stray thoughts, so as to be 100% mindful of the Buddha’s name. Not paying attention to a hundred matters is simply to facilitate paying of full attention, to the one matter of sincere mindfulness of the Buddha’s name.]

[Note 11: While it might seem challenging to not pay attention to a hundred or more matters, in practice, with each moment only having one thought, there is only need to not pay attention to only one stray thought in each moment, if it arises. (If you take care of each moment, you take care of all time.)]

[Note 12: Without need to recite ‘Not Pay Attention…’, each stray thought should just be seen as a reminder to return to mindfulness of the Buddha’s name immediately, with even more sincerity. The more immediate return to the Buddha’s name is, the less readily will stray thoughts arise. In good time, the Buddha will be connected to firmly, to be guided and received by him to reach his Pure Land. As the old woman was with utmost wholeheartedness in her practice, while aspiring to reach Pure Land soon, she thus connected to the Buddha for rebirth swiftly.]

(Record [Of] Pure Land’s Noble Sages):
续编卷四 • 往生女人第六
Continual Compilation: Fourth Scroll: Sixth [Section On] Reborn Women
Compiled [By] Hú Tǐng

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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