◎ 明 • 鸡（蛇，猫，猴，雀，猪）
Míng [Dynasty]: Chickens ([And] Snake, Cat, Monkey, Sparrow, Pig)
[Reborn Chicken (1)]
During [the years of] Míng [Dynasty’s Emperor] Chóngzhēn, [there] was [a] person [named] Wú Xuěyá, as Fúzhōu’s official in charge of lawsuits, [who for his] entire life, sincerely believed [in the] Buddha’s Dharma.
[As] that land’s Kāiyuán Monastery’s monks mostly ate meat, not guarding precepts’ practices, Xuěyá asked for instructions [to] erect [a] stone [tablet], for prohibiting this.
[Note 1: Perhaps after receiving permission from the Abbot, the tablet was sponsored and erected as a prominent, constant and literally solid reminder, for the monks to always observe the precepts well.]
One day sitting [in the] meditation hall, [there] was [a] chicken having chanting [of the] sound [of the] Buddha[‘s name].
[Note 2: The chicken was probably a human (or even monk), who already knew how to recite the Buddha’s name in his past life, who for some reason, did not practise to reach Pure Land in time, and was even reborn as an animal, yet with enough karmic affinity to reach the monastery.]
[After] searching [to] get him, [he] said [to the] monks, ‘If [your] contemporaries say [that in the] monastery within, [for] long [did] not rear live animals, how [can there] be [a] chicken? Now observing [this] animal, [he] still has Buddha-nature. You [are] shaved, [yet are] defiled [and] break precepts, not as good as this “gentleman” [by] much.’
[Note 3: The last two statements were made to remind the monks that even animals have Buddha-nature, that can be more clearly expressed, than some of the monks, who might not be as diligent as the chicken.]
[The] monastery’s monks [then] began [to] establish vows [to uphold] purification precepts [which include being veg(etari)an].
[He] then brought [him to be] reared [in his] government office within, [with] constant recitation [of the] Buddha[‘s name] not ceasing.
Later moving [his] office across [to] Dānyáng [county, he] sent [him] to Hǎihuì Monastery within, with him serving [at its] office [for] receiving [the] public, [to] enable [those from] far [and] near [to] give [rise to] Faith.
[Note 4: The chicken was tasked to inspire visitors to have Faith that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature, and to have Faith in mindfulness of Buddha.]
[When the] chicken reached [the] monastery, immediately [with] recitation [of the] Buddha[‘s name, he] stood [and] departed. For [him, a] pagoda [was] built [for] offering there.
[Note 5: It is only with good practice, that the chicken was able to depart with such ease.]
[Reborn Chicken (2)]
Also, Zhōngzhōu’s monk Juéyuán gave rise [to the] aspiration [to go to] Mount Lú’s Dōnglín Monastery, [to offer] alms [to its] monks. [Thus, he] established [a] retreat [to] raise funds.
[Note 6: Funds for sponsoring the food were probably raised by hosting the retreat for a number of sponsoring participants.]
Then, [when the] retreat-protecting monk reached [a] Huá family [to] seek alms [for the retreat] returned, [there] was [a] male chicken [who] followed [him] until midway, [whom the] monk sent back [to the] Huá family. Because its doors [were] closed, [the] chicken from [the] house above flew out, [and when] chased, went [to the] retreat’s place. Circumambulating [and] not leaving, together [with the] established retreat [for] three years.
[Note 7: As the chicken was reared by the family, he was returned to it. However, the chicken was determined to escape, and to follow the monk. The chicken was probably a human (or even monk) in his past life, who for some reason, was reborn as an animal, yet with enough karmic affinity to reach the monastery hosting the retreat above and the one below.]
[He was] later brought to Dōnglín [Monastery], for him [to] receive [the] precepts.
[Note 8: Although unable to speak properly, animals invited to receive precepts can be taken to have done so if they were still and solemn throughout recitation of the precepts.]
[When the] great assembly ascended [to the] hall [to] recite [the] Buddha[‘s name, the] chicken always followed it.
[Note 9: Although unable to speak properly, animals can still sincerely and silently recite the Buddha’s name in their minds. They can be taken to be doing so if they were still and solemn amidst recitation sessions, being part of the group cultivation (共修).]
Passing [a] year, [after a] monastic alms meal [was] completed, [the] chicken then stood [and] departed. [He was] buried at [the] monastery’s side.
[Note 10: It is only with good practice, that the chicken was able to depart with such ease.]
[Reborn Snake, Cat, Monkey, Sparrow And Pig]
Also passed [down and] recorded [is that] Jiāngxī had [a] Dharma-listening snake. Lúzhōu [had a] sitting [and] departing cat. [Its] gorge within has [a] sitting [and] departing monkey. Cháo county’s Zhègāo town had [a] standing [and] departing sparrow. Huáng Dàcān’s courtyard’s garden had [a] life-liberated sitting [and] departing pig.
[Note 11: It is only with good practice, that these animals were able to depart with such ease.]
[There are] all kinds [of] spiritual [and] extraordinary [phenomena, that] cannot [be] entirely narrated [here].
[Note 12: What recorded here is but the tip of the iceberg, of more similar accounts involving various kinds of animals.]
(Táng Yízhī’s Jīn Driven Chariot, Pure Land’s Morning Bell)
[With One Recitation Offered Sincerely, There Can Be Birth In Pure Land]
[As a] commentary says, ‘[In this] Five Defilements’ Evil Age, [the] defiled mind [is] easily ablaze, [and] pure virtues [are] difficult [to] accomplish.’
[Note 13: The Five Defilements (五浊) are the (i) Kalpa’s Defilement (劫浊): which is this period when all kinds of corrupted phenomena (defilements below) increasingly gather, (ii) Views’ Defilement (见浊): which are wrong (and harmful), (iii) Afflictions’ Defilement (烦恼浊): which cause suffering due to attachment, aversion, delusion, arrogance and doubt (贪嗔痴慢疑), (iv) Sentient Beings’ Defilement (众生浊): which arises from Views’ Defilement and Afflictions’ Defilement mixing to give rise to sentient beings who are corrupted in body and mind, and (v) Lifespan’s Defilement (命浊): which is the ill effect of having shorter life (due to defilements above), that makes spiritual progress to Buddhahood without the Pure Land path difficult.]
Thus [does a] sūtra say, ‘[In this] Sahā [World with practice] courageous [and] powerful [for] one day, surpasses in Pure Land [for one] hundred years.’
[Note 14: Do see the ‘Related Article’ below for complete understanding of this.]
Now with [all] kinds [of] animals then compared [with] humankind, moreover also [with] their difficulties, how [can] they [do so]? Yet [with] one recitation offered sincerely, [the] Three Paths [can be] liberated [from, with all] kinds [of] animals also thus, moreover for humans.
[Note 15: Even though it is extra difficult for animals, with their limited physical and spiritual capacities to learn and practise the Dharma, if they are still able to do so, such as by sincerely reciting the Buddha’s name even once, verbally or silently, this is surely practice especially courageous and powerful, with pure virtues being accomplished in the moment. With this, they too can reach Pure Land, to be liberated from the Three Paths of hell-beings (地狱众生), hungry ghosts (饿鬼) and animals (畜生). If even these animals can know the value of reaching Pure Land, and practise sincerely to do so, all the more should we humans follow their inspiring examples, to also do so.]
(Record [Of] Pure Land’s Noble Sages):
续编卷四 • 往生物类第七
Continual Compilation: Fourth Scroll: Seventh [Section On] Reborn Kinds [Of] Animals
Compiled [By] Hú Tǐng
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Verses On Difficulty And Easiness
Is Practice Easier In Defiled Lands?