Guidance On The Dharma Door Of Mindfulness Of Buddha《示念佛法门》

[7] Seventh [Of ‘The] Pure Land [Tradition’s] Ten Essentials’: Appendix Three

Guidance [On The] Dharma Door [Of] Mindfulness [Of] Buddha


[The] Dharma Door [Of] Mindfulness [Of] Buddha, [is] without [any] other unusual [or] special [requisite], only [with] profound Faith [and] diligent Practice as [its] essentials.

[Note 1: With profound Faith (深信), comes sincere Aspiration (切愿), for true Practice (实行) of mindfulness of the Buddha’s name (念佛). Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行) form the Three Provisions (三资粮) for reaching the Buddha’s Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (极乐世界):]


[The] Buddha said, ‘If [a] person [is] only mindful [of A]mi[tābha] Buddha [i.e. Āmítuófó], [this] is named [as the] unsurpassable profound [and] wonderful Chán [i.e. meditation].’

[Note 2: Thus, mindfulness of Buddha is not merely recitation, but supreme meditation, as the subject of meditation is the Buddha, who is perfectly mindful of the one mindful in return, thus making the meditation supreme in its purifying effects. For more on this, see]


[The] Tiāntái [Tradition’s (天台宗) Great Master Zhìzhě (智者大师)] said, ‘[The] four kinds [of] samādhis [are with the] same name [as] mindfulness [of] Buddha. Mindfulness [Of] Buddha Samādhi [is The] King Within Samādhis.’

[Note 3: The four kinds of samādhis (四种三昧) are

Constant Sitting Samādhi (常坐三昧) (in a stationary posture),
(ii) Constant Walking Samādhi (常行三昧) (in a mobile posture),
(iii) Semi-Sitting And Semi-Walking Samādhi (半坐半行三昧) (in stationary and mobile postures) and
(iv) Neither Sitting Nor Walking Samādhi (非坐非行三昧) (in no fixed posture).]

[Note 4: The King Within Samādhis (三昧中王) is also known as Treasures’ King Samādhi (宝王三昧). It is the king as there is connection to the Buddha, with immeasurable blessings’ benefits, thus with no greater possible Samādhi.]


Yúnqī [Monastery’s (云栖寺) Great Master Liánchí (莲池大师)] said, ‘One line [of] Āmítuófó completely includes [the] Eight Teachings, [and] completely gathers [the] Five Schools.’

[Note 5: The Eight Teachings (八教) are the

Transformative Methods’ Four Teachings (化仪四教)
, with

(i) Sudden Teaching (顿教),
(ii) Gradual Teaching (渐教),
(iii) Secret Teaching (秘密教) and
(iv) Indefinite Teaching (不定教), along with the

Transformative Dharma’s Four Teachings (化法四教), with

(v) Tripiṭaka Teaching (藏教),
(vi) CommonTeaching (通教),
(vii) Separate Teaching (别教) and
(viii) Complete Teaching (圆教).]

[Note 6: The Five Schools (五宗) of the Chán Tradition (禅宗) are the

 Línjì School (临济宗),
(ii) Cáodòng School (曹洞宗),
(iii) Wéiyǎng School (沩仰宗),
(iv) Yúnmén School (云门宗) and
(v) Fǎyǎn Tradition (法眼宗).]


[It is a] pity [that] today’s people, [are] with mindfulness [of] Buddha seen as [a] shallow [and] obvious activity, saying [it is a] skill [for] foolish men [and] foolish women. Therefore [with] Faith since not profound, [and] Practice also not diligent, all day leisurely, [with] pure merits not attained!


Those incorporating ‘skilful means’, desiring [to have] profound understanding [of] this samādhi, change [to be] with contemplative investigation [of the] ‘who’ word for ‘making progress’. Actually, not knowing [that] of [the] mind’s presently manifested one thought, [that one is] able [to be] mindful of, [it is] originally [and] naturally departed [from] faults [and] cut [from] wrongs, not needing [to] have [such] intentions, [yet] departed [and] cut [from them]. Immediately, [with the] presently manifested one line of that Buddha[‘s name] mindful [of, as it] also originally [and] naturally surpasses passions [and] departs [from] discrimination, why toil [to] speak [of the] wonderful [and] discuss [on the] abstruse?

[Note 7: This so-called ‘skilful means’ refers to the Chán practice of asking oneself the head phrase (话头), ‘Who is mindful of the Buddha? (念佛的是谁?)’ This is for aligning with one’s Buddha-nature (佛性), and to awaken to it.

This is however not needed as mindfulness of the Buddha’s name already does this directly, what more with the Buddha’s great Other-power (他力) to boost one’s limited Self-power (自力). Mindfulness of Buddha aligns one’s unawakened Buddha-nature with the Buddha’s awakened Buddha-nature, with the latter helping to awaken the first. Thus, mindfulness of Buddha is already the best skilful means available.]


[That] only valuable [is to be] able [to have] Faith attained, [then] guarding [it to] attain stability, [with] direct mindfulness, perhaps [in] day [and] night, [with a] hundred thousand [(verbal and/or silent recitations)], perhaps five hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, with [this] definitely not [falling] short as [the] standard.

[Note 8: An alternative (and easier [hands-free]) method to practise with measurable discipline, is to stick to a duration of time, during which there will be the equivalent number of recitations committed to. The duration can be longer or shorter, as available time allows.

The general guideline is that although quality matters more than quantity when it comes to mindfulness practice, the greater practice is in quantity, the greater its quality will be too, with more peace and bliss (安乐), clarity and such.]


[To the] end [of] this one life, vowing [to be] without change. If [there are] those not attaining rebirth [in the Pure Land, the] three periods’ all Buddhas are then lying.

[Note 9: If there is decrease or end of Practice, there might be decrease or end of commitment to reach Pure Land. With loss of Aspiration (that powers Practice), thus unable to reach it.]

[Note 10: As the Buddha gave the Pure Land teachings in more than three hundred sūtras, and as all Buddhas teach similarly, with these teachings being time-tested by countless successful practitioners in the past and present, the Pure Land Dharma Door must be true.]


Once attaining rebirth, forever without retrogression. [With] all kinds [of] Dharma Doors, all attaining [their] appearances before [one].

[Note 11: All eighty-four thousand Dharma Doors (八万四千法门) can be mastered swiftly in the Pure Land, in principle and in practice, including those listed in Note 5 and Note 6 above, and in Note 14 and Note 15 below, which includes the Chán Door (禅门).]


[There] must [be] avoiding [of] today [with] Zhāng Sān [i.e. practising this], [and the] next day [with] Lǐ Sì [i.e practising that]. [There are those, when] encountering people [of the scripturally based traditions’] teachings, also contemplating searching [of] chapters [to] pick lines; encountering people [of the] Chán Door, also contemplating contemplative investigation [of] questions [and] answers; encountering people upholding [monastic] discipline, also contemplating putting on robes [and] using alms bowls. These [are] thus [with] every matter not completed, [with] all debts not cleared.

[Note 12: As also taught by the Great Master Ǒuyì (蕅益大师) in Spirit Peak Tradition’s Treatise《灵峰宗论》, ‘With Faith and Aspiration already complete, recitation of the Buddha’s name (i.e. Āmítuófó) is then as the Main Practice, while correction of evil and cultivation of good are all as Supportive Practices.’ (信愿既具,念佛方为正行,改恶修善皆为助行。)

In other words, there should be the Main Practice (正行) of mindfulness of Buddha focused on with the most effort and time for practice. All other good practices, which are secondary and optional, should be considered as Supportive Practices (助行).]

[Note 13: The Main Practice is a ‘matter’ that can be completed in this life with the reaching of Pure Land, while the Supportive Practices can support this goal. Once Pure Land is reached, all karmic debts can be cleared.]


How [could they] know [that] with mindfulness [of] Āmítuófó mature, [the] Three Treasuries’ [i.e. Tripiṭaka] twelve divisions’ highest principles’ teachings, [are] all within;

[Note 14: The Three Treasuries (三藏) are the

(i) Sūtra Treasury (经藏),
(ii) Vinaya Treasury (律藏) and
(iii) Treatise Treasury (论藏).]

[Note 15: The Twelve Divisions Of Sūtras (十二部经) are scriptures in the formats of

(i) Sūtra (long lines; prose) (长行),
(ii) Geya (restatements of sūtra teachings with verses) (重颂),
(iii) Gātha (solitary-arising; verses) (孤起),
(iv) Itivṛttaka (parables) (譬喻),
(v) Nidāna (purposes, causes and conditions of propounding teachings and monastic precepts) (因缘),
(vi) Udāna (that without being asked, as personally spoken by the Buddha) (无问自说),
(vii) Jātaka (the Buddha’s past lives’ stories) (本生),
(viii) Avadāna (others’ past lives’ matters) (本事),
(ix) Adbhutadharma (that never before; rare; miraculous; marvellous matters) (未曾有),
(x) Vaipulya (right and vast; extensive) (方广),
(xi) Upadeśa (discussions and debates) (论议) and
(xii) Vyākarana (predictions of disciples’ enlightenment) (授记).]


[that the one] thousand [and] seven hundred public cases’ [i.e. kōans] stratagems [for] making progress, likewise are within;

[Note 16: These are the public cases in the Record Of The Lamp’s Transmission《传灯錄》.]


[and that the] three Thousandfold Majestic Conduct, Eighty Thousand Fine Practices, [and] Three Assemblies [Of] Pure Precepts, likewise are within?

[Note 17: From the Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Textual Explanation《楞严经文句》,

‘Speaking of those Three Thousandfold Majestic Conduct, walking, standing, sitting and lying down, as each has two hundred and fifty precepts (for monastics), together accomplishing one thousand. With regard to the Three Assemblies Of Pure Precepts, then accomplishing three thousand.’ (言三千威仪者,行住坐卧各二百五十戒,共成一千,以对三聚,即成三千。)

‘Speaking of those Eighty Thousand Fine Practices, with the Three Thousandfold Majestic Conduct, going through the body and speech, with their Seven Branches, together accomplishing twenty-one thousand, briefly having greed’s part, anger’s part, and delusion’s part, and other parts’ afflictions, with discussion on their remedies, thus having eighty-four thousand, now specially raising its larger number (to round it up) only.’ (言八万微细者,以三千威仪历身口七支,共成二万一千,约贪分嗔分痴分等分烦恼以论对治,故有八万四千,今特举大数耳。)

The seven branches (七支) are the

(i) body’s three (身三) branches of transgressions, by killing lives (杀生), stealing (偷盗) and sexual misconduct (邪淫), with the
(ii) mouth’s four (口四) branches of transgressions, by false speech (妄语), double-tongued speech (两舌), harsh speech (恶口) and useless speech (绮语).

The Three Assemblies Of Pure Precepts (三聚净戒), which are the Bodhisattva Precepts (菩萨戒), are the

(i) Precepts Gathering Discipline And Conduct (摄律仪戒),
(ii) Precepts Gathering Good Dharmas (摄善法戒) and
(iii) Precepts Gathering Sentient Beings (摄众生戒).]


 [With] true ability [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha, letting go [of] body, mind [and the] world, [is] then great Generosity.
[2] [With] true ability [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha, not again giving rise [to] greed, anger [and] delusion, [is] then great Upholding [Of] Precepts.
[3] [With] true ability [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha, not [being] attached [to] rights [and] wrongs [of] others [and] oneself, [is] then great Patience.
[4] [With] true ability [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha, not [having] slight interruption [with] mixed [thoughts, is] then great Diligence.
[5] [With] true ability [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha, not again [by] deluded thoughts driven [and not] chasing [after them, is] then great Meditative Concentration.
[6] [With] true ability [to be] mindful [of the] Buddha, not by those other divergences confused, [is] then great Wisdom.

[Note 18: To practise the six qualities above is to cultivate the Six Perfections (六度), all via mindfulness of Buddha, at the same time, in the very same moment. It is perfectly natural that with mindfulness of Buddha, the Buddha’s qualities perfected from his cultivation of the Six Perfections will grow in those mindful of him too. As these qualities grow, they will also be more naturally practised in everyday life, beyond the practice of mindfulness of Buddha. If not so, unless there are practical limitations, mindfulness of Buddha might not be truly practised yet.]


Using [this for] self-examination. If


 [with the] body, mind [and] world, still yet [to be] let go,
 [with] greed, anger [and] delusion, still appearing [and] arising,
[3] [with] rights [and] wrongs [of] others [and] oneself, still hung [on to] in [the] mind, 
[4] [with] interruptions [with] mixed [thoughts], still yet [to be] eliminated completely,
[5] [by] deluded thoughts driven [and] chasing [after them], still yet [to be] forever ceased, [or]
[6] [with] all kinds [of] other divergences still able [to] confuse [one’s] Aspiration,


[these are] then not as true mindfulness [of] Buddha.


[If] wanting [to] reach [the] realm [of] wholeheartedness without [being] scattered, [it is] also without another skill. [Those] first starting must use counting beads, [for] noting [of number, that] must [be] distinct [and] clear, deliberately [having a] fixed practice schedule, [to] definitely [be] without [that] lacking. [After] a long time proficient, not mindful [yet] naturally mindful, after that [is] noting [of] number also allowed, [and] not noting [of number] also allowed.

[Note 19: The noting of number and scheduling of daily practice sessions are skilful means for maintaining discipline and focus for spiritual progress. When there is sustainable progress already, with ‘automatic’ but still mindful mindfulness saturated within everyday life, noting of number can be dropped.

Bear in mind that the essential practice is mindfulness of the Buddha’s name anyway; not ‘counting’ of the Buddha’s name. For those already approaching life’s end, noting of number will be impractical too. Clutching with moving of prayer beads for counting (掐珠) might not only be distractions then, they can be difficult too. They should directly practise as much sincere mindfulness of the Buddha as possible, until his Pure Land is reached.]


If [to those with] initial minds, then speaking ‘good-looking’ words, [that they] must not [be] attached [to] form, [and] must learn [to be in] perfect harmony [with all at] ease, [then will they] always be [with] Faith not profound, [and] Practice not diligent.

[Note 20: ‘Good-looking words’ (好看话) might be nice-sounding, but are too lofty and impractical for beginners. Since they are not ready at all, there should not be ‘advising’ of them to let go of all forms of deliberate practices, to simply ‘make peace’ with everything as they are.]

[Note 21: As Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is with wonderful forms (妙有), that also express true emptiness (真空) purely, and since it is much more difficult to realise that forms and emptiness are one with each other (色即是空;空即是色) here, the vow to reach his Pure Land for spiritual purification is a pure Aspiration. This is the second aspect of Aspiration, with ‘joyful seeking of the Land Of Ultimate Bliss’ (欣求极乐) as the pull factor. As the first aspect of Aspiration is with ‘revulsed renunciation of the Sahā World’ (厌离娑婆) as the push factor, not being with perfect ease in this defiled land is not only alright, but essential, with no need to feel that ‘all is well’ here at all.]


Even though you speak [of] attaining [the] twelve parts’ teachings, [with those] below attaining [one] thousand seven hundred turning phrases, all [these] are matters [by the] shore [of the ocean of] birth [and] death.

[Note 22: Even if all divisions of the sūtras and all Chán public cases are understood, only in theory, they are still not practical enough for reaching the shore of liberation, unlike mindfulness of Buddha for reaching Pure Land, where liberation is guaranteed.]


When approaching life’s end, [these are] definitely not needed. [Do] highly value [this said]!

[Note 23: When dying, what to only highly value, is true Practice (实行) of mindfulness of the Buddha’s name, with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿).]

Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì
(Great Master Ǒuyì’s Dharma Words

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Related Teachings:

The Pure Land Tradition’s Ten Essentials

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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