Monastic Dharma Name: Shì Yìnguāng (Great Master)
Status: Thirteenth Patriarch Of The Pure Land Tradition (School)
Family Name: Zhào (Surname) Shàoyī (Name), Zirèn (Style Name)
Place Of Birth: Shǎnxī Province (present Héyáng County)
Year Of Birth: 1861 C.E.
Year Of Rebirth: 1940 C.E.
Best Known Works: Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (First, Second, Third Compilation); Great Master Yìnguāng’s Complete Collection (Seven Volumes), Record Of Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Excellent Words (by Layperson Lǐ Yuánjìng compiled), Shànghǎi Dharma Assembly For Protection Of The Country And Cessation Of Disasters’ Dharma Words, and others
Great Master Yìnguāng was born in 1861, in Shǎnxī Province’s Héyáng County, in a Zhào family and was named Shàoyī. When young, he followed his brother to study Confucianism and was inclined to take on propagation of Confucianism as his personal responsibility, echoing the criticism of Hán and Ōu to refute Buddhism. Later, when by sickness besieged for several years, he began to awake to his past wrongdoings, as he suddenly reformed his former thoughts. With his world-transcending conditions matured, he renounced his householder life at Liánhuádòng Monastery at the southern peak of Mount Zhōngnán under Venerable Dàochún to become a monk. In the following year, he received full ordination at Shǎnxī Province’s Ānkāng County, in Shuāngxī Monastery.
When Great Master was six months old, he had an eye disease and was on the verge of losing his sight. Although he recovered later, his eyesight was already impaired. When slightly reddish, he would then be unable to see. After his renunciation, while at Húběi’s Liánhuá (Lotus Flower) Monastery, he served as its guest attendant. When he was helping to sun its sūtra books, he chanced upon an incomplete version of Lóngshū’s Pure Land Text. He then came to know that the Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha for rebirth in Pure Land is the essential path for liberation from the cycle of birth and death in this immediate life.
Whenever Great Master wrote too much, his eyes would turn red to become bloodshot. Due to this eye disease, he deeply awakened to the body as the root of suffering. Thus, whenever he had free time, he would focus on reciting the Buddha’s name (Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛). After the assembly went to sleep at night, he would again arise, to sit and recite the Buddha’s name. Even when writing, his mind also did not depart from the Buddha’s name. Therefore, although it was strenuous with the disease, he resolutely wrote on, and was still able to, with difficulty. The eye disease later completely healed. Due to this, he had profound faith that the meritorious virtues of reciting the Buddha’s name are inconceivable. Then was he with his personal practice transforming others, to first be with Pure Land as the destination for return, due to this, then beginning practice. Great Master cultivated the Pure Land path, over a long time and with complete sincerity. At 26, he arrived at the Pure Land’s practice centre at Mount Hóngluó’s Zīfú (Provision Of Blessings) Monastery to practise mindfulness of Buddha. Within three years, other than the Main Practice of mindfulness of Buddha, he studied the Great Vehicle’s sūtras. Through wonderful uniting with the Buddha’s mind, his cultivation of pure karma greatly advanced.
At 33, responding to the invitation of Venerable Huàwén of Mount Pǔtuó’s Fǎyǔ (Dharma Rain) Monastery to protect the treasury of sūtras, he went southwards and resided in an empty room in the sūtra repository tower of Fǎyǔ Monastery. For close to 20 years, he roused his resolve to diligently cultivate, and deeply entered the treasury of sūtras. Occasionally, perhaps receiving the monastery’s assembly’s strong invitation, he would then speak on the Pure Land sūtras. With speaking completed, he would soon after enter a solitary retreat. In his study room, he wrote, ‘With reciting of the Buddha’s name awaiting for death’. With this for self-encouragement, his learning and practice advanced by many folds. After Great Master’s renunciation, for more than 30 years, from the beginning to the end, he concealed to hide his talents. Not delighting in associating with many people, he also did not wish people to know his name. Over a long time, in day and night, he upheld Āmítuófó’s name, and soon attained Samādhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha.
In his later years, other than greatly propagating the Dharma, he would at his convenience, have solitary retreats at Sūzhōu’s Bàoguó (Repayment Of The Country) Monastery. In 1937, at Sūzhōu’s Mount Língyán to have a mindfulness of Buddha retreat for a spiritual breakthrough, when Great Master replied to a Japanese person’s enquiry about his recent activities, he replied. ‘Since reaching Língyán, of whatever famous scenic place, of all, I will not go to visit them, with my aspiration hoping to be reborn in Pure Land, not with famous scenic places bothered thus.’ This was enough to prove that Great Master, with all of his life’s travels and teachings, and with his conduct propagating the Dharma, he was only mindful of impermanence, and resolutely sought rebirth in Pure Land.
In 1911, when Great Master was 52, layperson Gāo Hènián obtained several of Great Master’s articles for publication in Shànghǎi Buddhist Studies Journal, with his signed name as Chángcán (Constantly Repentant). Although no one knew who he was, yet his words with Prajñā were already enough to inspire readers’ good roots to grow. When Xú Wèirú, Zhōu Mèngyóu and many other laypersons saw them, they repeatedly searched and collected Great Master’s articles, to be published as ‘Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’, which was by the Commercial Press, Zhōnghuá Book Company and the Buddhist circle widely circulated. Great Master’s virtuous name, due to this, then became famous locally and overseas.
With his ‘Collected Writings’, they truly marked the beginning of Great Master’s propagation of the Dharma. Due to reading of his ‘Collected Writings’, then greatly admiring the Great Master’s morality, good men and faithful women who desired to line up by his door and walls to be his disciples by the day increased to be many. Perhaps sailing by sea and climbing steps up mountains, then requesting to be accepted as disciples, or with letters to and fro then requesting to be given Dharma names. In more than 20 years, of those who took refuge through Great Master, their numbers cannot be counted. Thus, relying on his teachings for practice, of those eating as vegetarians, practising recitation of the Buddha’s name, and diligently cultivating pure karma, men and women who were able to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land were too numerous to mention one by one.
All great Bodhisattvas who ride on their vows to come again, are different with those who respond to the occasion, and those who respond to disasters. Those encountering eras of great peace are those responding to the occasion then born. Those encountering chaotic periods are those responding to disasters then born. Within the Pure Land Tradition’s masters, Great Master Huìyuǎn and Great Master Yìnguāng were those responding to disasters then born. Great Master was born in the Qīng Dynasty’s Xiánfēng’s 11th year, just when the Anglo-French garrison troops attacked and broke through Běijīng. Thereafter, were incessant fights between warlords, Japanese bandits’ invasion of China and so on. At this time, with China in chaos and turmoil, and the country’s people at that time with worries, suffering and extreme distress, Great Master highly raised the Dharma torch of worldly Dharma for practising good, and the world-transcending Dharma of mindfulness of Buddha for seeking birth in Pure Land, to comfort the broken spirits of the country’s people, resolutely and sincerely urging devotees to understand causes, to be cautious of their effects, when in times of emergencies with difficulties, suffering and distress, to sincerely uphold the sacred name of Námó Guānshìyīn Púsà (Homage to and refuge in Contemplator Of The World’s Sounds Bodhisattva), to latently eliminate distress and difficulties when they are yet to bud, with the Buddha’s teachings pull up those in raging waves already fallen, to reduce and lighten the suffering and difficulties of the people. It is difficult to, with words, speak of his formless and utmost virtues. Comparing them with meritorious virtues that can be seen, that can be heard, they are also difficult to be with them inferred.
Other than using the formats of words with Prajñā and teaching of sūtras to speak the Dharma for propagating the Pure Land Dharma Door, Great Master also established Mount Língyán (Spirit Rock) Monastery as a ten-directional practice centre for cultivation of the Pure Land path. Personally and definitively establishing the terms of its constitution, it was truly as this Dharma-Ending Age’s model monastery. Great Master even contributed his allowance to encourage others to donate, to widely print sūtra books for circulation, founding Hónghuàshè (Great Transformation Society). For more than 20 years, all kinds of Buddhist books that were printed numbered not less than 4 to 5 million, with more than 1 million pictures of Buddha images, with this propagation of the Dharma to transform, that was voluminous and widespread, in China and beyond.
Great Master was hardworking and frugal all his life, paying attention to cherishing of his blessings. His food, clothing, lodging and others were all extremely simple and coarse, as he strongly rejected the exquisite. He ate only to allay hunger, not seeking that to suit his taste. With clothing chosen only to keep out the cold, he rejected the flamboyant. When having offerings of delicious food and beautiful clothing, not only declining and not accepting them, he would then transfer them, to give them to others. If the offered items are ordinary objects, he would then order them to be turned over to the storeroom, with everyone together shared, definitely not with them for personal use. Sprinkling water and sweeping to wash and clean his room, everything was by himself handled. When receiving invitations to go out to speak and teach, although for him preparing a sedan chair, he would also be not willing to sit on it, seeing riding on it as losing his blessings thus. Great Master personally practised thriftiness. However, when treating people, he was with extremely great kindness. For all good men and faithful women who made offerings to him, he would, all on their behalf, widely plant them in fields of blessings. Using them to circulate sūtra texts, and to supply relief for the hungry and poor. Whenever hearing of wherever encountering disasters and in states of emergency, he would do his best to promote donations. With compassion sympathising with sentient beings having suffering and difficulties, it was utmost, without that to be added.
Great Master’s Pure Land thought, from the above, succeeded the blood lineage of ancient Buddhas and Patriarchs, for the below, agreed with the roots and capacities of recent times’ sentient beings, with word by word returning to the source, word by word for seeing the truth. Truly as a great treasury of bright light that flows to present sincere and true Dharma words, his teachings were granted as a treasure for the present era’s sentient beings, that must be urgently discussed and kept in mind. As Great Master knew each Buddhist tradition deeply and widely, his worldly and world-transcending knowledge and learning was deep, and with mindfulness of Buddha’s practice already having reached samādhi, thus are his words with the power to gather, receive and protect, that is extremely strong. As Great Master’s Pure Land thought is vast and rich, now gathering their essentials, they are as below, briefly presented.
With attentive studying of Great Master’s ‘Collected Writings’, one can at any time feel Great Master’s mind, to be with painstaking sincerity and benevolence, for delivering us and other sentient beings, to depart from suffering’s ocean of birth and death. From the perspective of correspondence between the Buddha’s teachings and sentient beings’ roots, Great Master already provided the most excellent choice for us. According to Great Master, medicine is without the noble and lowly, as that which heals sickness is good. The Dharma is without the good and bad, with that suiting capacities then wonderful. In times of the past, humans’ roots were excellent, with knowledge abundant like forests, with the cultivating of any one Dharma teaching, all then were able to realise the path.
In this immediate world now, with humans’ roots coarse and inferior, the knowledgeable are rare and few. If abandoning the Pure Land path, one is then without cause for liberation. The Pure Land Dharma Door universally covers those of high, medium and low roots, unifying and gathering all teachings of the Vinaya, Sūtra and Chán traditions. It is like timely rain that moisturises all living beings, and like the great ocean that receives all rivers. Of the partial and complete, sudden and gradual, of all Dharma teachings, none do not from this Dharma realm flow. With the Great and Small Vehicles, skilful and true, of all practices, none do not also return to this Dharma realm. Not needing to sever confusions and evil karma, yet attaining in advance the position of one lifetime to replacement, immediately in this one life attain perfect Bodhi. If the nine realms’ sentient beings depart from this door, those above will not be able to completely accomplish the Buddhas’ path. If the ten directions’ all Buddhas abandon this Dharma teaching, for those below, they will not be able to universally benefit sentient beings.
The Pure Land Dharma Door is the most wonderful and most profound, with starting of its practice easy, yet with its success rate high, with exerting of efforts little, yet with attaining of results swift, this completely relies on the Buddha’s power. Universally covering the three roots, regardless of the rich or honoured, poor or lowly, old or young, male or female, wise or foolish, monastics or laypeople, of scholars, farmers, artisans, merchants and all other people, as all are able to practise it, all can be reborn in the Pure Land. Thus is it with thousands of sūtras and ten thousand treatises, that everywhere point to it for return. Of former nobles and past virtuous ones, everyone inclined towards it.
The Pure Land Dharma Door is thus truly the essential path of the Thus Come Ones, for universally delivering sentient beings, and the wonderful Dharma for sentient beings to, in this immediate life, exit suffering. In the world of the present, even if ancient Buddhas who have already accomplished Right Awakening manifest, they definitely will not separately, away from ‘having harmonious human relationships, to the utmost fulfilling responsibilities, and paying of attention to the Pure Land Dharma Door’, have other teachings that are promoted. Even if Great Master Bodhidharma is present in this period, he will also be relying on this Dharma Door with the Buddha’s power, for teaching and guiding, with this timing as the cause and condition, and with true existence (absolute reality) as the root.
To be continued…
完整中文原文 Complete Chinese text: donglin.org
图片 Pictures: 任新宇 《净土》
英译 English translation: purelanders.com