One Letter As A Common Reply 《一函遍复》

One Letter As A Common Reply

By The Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng

About This Letter(关于此函): Teaching mainly through his writings (in pre-Internet days), before ‘One Letter As A Common Reply’ was written, Great Master Yìnguāng was already renowned for his dedicated and succinct replying of every letter with Dharma queries sent to him. These letters from local and overseas Buddhists eventually became so numerous that they would arrive by the sack. With rich experience of answering all kinds of questions over two decades, and with many teachings shared through these letters, they were also compiled into a series of books.

In 1932, just eight years before the Great Master departed for Pure Land at the age of 80, he declared that he was already too old and weak to reply to every letter. However, still wishing to offer some form of reply to incoming letters, his skilful solution was to mass-print the titular letter, as a default general reply to all letters, to continue addressing common concerns of the day, which are still relevant today. Wide-ranging in nature, they cover ‘worldly’ issues, such as family problems, to the great matter of liberation. For other queries not covered, some words would be added in reply.

Out of great compassion, though well-versed in classical writing, the Great Master wrote the letter in plain language to reach out to more. Although his books already answered many frequently asked questions, not all read them in detail. Thus was there the need to highlight key Dharma pointers in the letter. In a sense, it is the ‘quintessential’ letter of all his letters, as if a ‘final’ summary, through which he speaks of essential matters that all should note, for the betterment of self and society, while never losing his main focus of exhorting all to reach Pure Land. (For this, the letter also highlights one of his most important essays, on the ‘Three Great Essentials When Approaching Life’s End’.)

Although deeply knowledgeable in various Buddhist traditions’ teachings, as can be seen in his more complex writings, and despite his popularity as a learned teacher, the Great Master did not portray himself to be a great expert in the Dharma, always skilfully directing all to pay particular attention to the precious Pure Land teachings instead, with the practice of which, all of the Dharma will be realised through reach of Pure Land in this lifetime. This contrasts with being buried in many profound teachings only in theory, while not being capable of practically utilising them for liberation before this life ends.

With no wasted words, to give us confidence, and urge us to pay attention, the Great Master opened the letter by assuring that its instructions are all from the Buddha’s teachings, with the practice of which, there will surely be great benefits. Even his signing off with the humble pen name of ‘Constantly Repentant Monk’, dating it on the beginning of winter, is perhaps a subtle hint that he was already in his winter years, with this as a solemn reminder for us, to treasure the little time we have left, to more diligently learn and more sincerely practise the Pure Land teachings.


[0] Introduction:

Brief Description Of Faith, Aspiration And Practice

[1] The First Principle:

With Harmonious Human Relationships, To The Utmost Fulfil Responsibilities, With The Mind And The Path Together

[2] The Second Principle:

Encourage Progress Of Practitioners, With Mindfulness Of The Buddha To Eradicate Disasters

[3] The Third Principle:

With All Kinds Of Meritorious Virtues, Dedicate For Birth In Pure Land

[4] The Fourth Principle:

With Focused Cultivation Of Pure Karma, By Oneself Attaining Mind’s Awakening

[5] The Fifth Principle:

Clearly Distinguish Forged ‘Sūtras’, With Mindfulness Of Buddha Being The Best

[6] The Sixth Principle:

With The Mind Of Loving-Kindness To Not Kill, Abstain From Meat And Eat As Veg(etari)ans

[7] The Seventh Principle:

When Approaching Life’s End, With Support-Chanting, Dissolve Obstacles And Difficulties

[8] The Eighth Principle:

When Approaching Birthing Have Support-Chanting, With Guānyīn Bodhisattva’s Sacred Name

[9] The Ninth Principle:

On Women Prostrating And Reciting, With Reverence Interpenetrating

[10] The Tenth Principle:

Recite Mindfully Guānyīn Bodhisattva’s Name, Correct Evil And Cultivate Good

[11] The Eleventh Principle: 

Strictly Complying With Women’s Path, Of Filial Respect And Kindly Love

[12] The Twelfth Principle:

For Children’s Education, With Cautiousness Then From The Beginning

[13] Concluding Remarks

Suggestions for improvement are welcomed. More translations are available at, and

Namo Amituofo : Translation by Shen Shi’an (First Edition: 14 October 2021)

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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