Sēngjì Approaching [Life’s] End [With] Focused Contemplation [On The] Western [Pure Land]
Lúshān’s honoured disciple Sēngjì, [was approaching [the] moment [of life’s] end, [when the] Honoured One gave [out] one stick [of] candle [and] said, ‘You can [use this to] apply contemplation [of the] Western [Pure Land].’
Jì held [the] candle [and] focused [on] contemplating [the Buddha’s] golden countenance, [to] gather [his] mind [to be] without scatteredness.
[Note 1: This method seems particular to this Master, as his personal preference, as the Pure Land sūtras have no mention of this technique, while most simply focus on the practice of reciting the Buddha’s name with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿) directly. The practice of visualisation is difficult for most, and even potentially dangerous for those less capable, as warned by various Pure Land Patriarchs. This are reasons why recitation of the Buddha’s name remains the Main Practice (正行) for most Pure Land practitioners.]
Again, [he] invited [the] monastic assembly [to] recite [the] ‘Sixteen Contemplations’ Sūtra’. [At the] fifth watch, Jì, with [his] candle given [to his] companions, thereupon took [a] nap.
[Note 2: The recitation of the sūtra was for reminding him of its teachings, to offer guidance. Although much of the sūtra is about a sequence of visualisation practices, near its end, this was taught – ‘The Buddha told Ānanda, “You should well uphold these [teachings] spoken. Those upholding these spoken, are the same as those with upholding of Immeasurable Life Buddha’s name.”‘ (佛告阿难：「汝好持是语。持是语者，即是持无量寿佛名。」) This means the practice of recitation of the Buddha’s name is the single key practice that encompasses all the teachings in the sūtra, with no benefits amiss. The entire sūtra can be seen at https://purelanders.com/guanjing.]
When awaking, [he] said, ‘[As] I [have] dreamt [of] seeing Amitā[bha] Buddha lowering [his] hand [to] receive [and] guide me], I will [be] departing.’ [With these] words completed, [lying on his] right side, [he] then departed.
[Note 3: These are the auspicious signs (瑞相) of sight of the Buddha (见佛) and in advance knowing the time of arrival in Pure Land (预知时至).]
This, [if] not [with] that perfuming [by] cultivation [of] precepts, concentration [and] wisdom, how then [was he] able [to have] gentle countenance [and] soft speech at [the] shore [of] birth [and] death?
[Note 4: The cultivation of precepts, concentration and wisdom is called the Threefold Learning (三学), which can be practised entirely with mindfulness of the Buddha, as aligning to the Buddha’s purity abstains from all evil, (which upholds the precepts), eradicates scatteredness of the mind with wholehearted recitation of the Buddha’s name, (which cultivates concentration) and increases clarity of the mind with the Buddha’s blessings that awaken Buddha-nature, (which ‘opens’ wisdom). The Master’s calmness and clarity expressed his ease and confidence of reaching Pure Land.]
[This] can [be] called attaining [the] path, then practising without obstacles, [with the] ordinary applying [it for] crossing [the] barrier [of] death [and] birth.
Lúshān’s Lotus Tradition’s Treasure Mirror: Eighth Scroll [On] Right Tips [On] Mindfulness [Of] Buddha [For] Rebirth
[By] Great Master Yōután Pǔdù Compiled
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an