Mindfulness [Of] Buddha’s Benefits Surpass Those From Reciting Sūtras, Prostrating [With] Repentance, [And The] Water [And] Land [Dharma Assembly]
[For] protecting [the] sick [and] delivering [the] deceased, people nowadays lead with reciting [of] sūtras, prostrating [with] repentance [prayers, and] conducting [of the] Water [And] Land [Dharma Assembly (水陆法会)] as practices. [Yìn]guāng for close friends say, [that] all [should be] enabled [to have] reciting [of Amitā(bha)] Buddha[‘s name] [Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛].
[Note 1: The Water And Land Dharma Assembly (水陆法会) is the most elaborate, lengthy and costly Dharma assembly in the Chinese Mahāyāna (大乘) tradition, which includes the recitation of many long sūtras. Although they include the Pure Land sūtras and mindfulness of the Buddha’s name (念佛), these, especially the latter, is not the Main Practice (正行), not with the most time and efforts focused upon. Although chanting of many sūtras creates much meritorious virtues (功德), without the Main Practice, the Buddha’s Pure Land (净土) cannot be reached.]
[Note 2: With mindfulness of the Buddha’s name, if there is already understanding of its purpose with guidance (开示) offered for both the living (i.e. the dying and support-chanters) and the deceased, all can easily practise it, mentally and/or verbally. Although this seems simple, the Buddha’s name is the Ten Thousand Virtues’ Great Name (万德洪名), which already encompass all meritorious virtues, for swift healing and the best rebirth in his Pure Land, when it is recited with the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith, Aspiration and Practice (信愿行): https://purelanders.com/2018/02/08/the-three-provisions.]
With mindfulness [of] Buddha’s benefits, [they are] more than [those from] reciting [of] sūtras, prostrating [with] repentance [prayers, and] conducting [of the] Water [And] Land [Dharma Assembly by] very much. Why is [this] thus? [With] reciting [of] sūtras, thus [are there] those [who do] not recognise [the] words, [who are] not able [to] recite [them]. Even if [they] recognise [the] words, yet [some recite as] quickly as flowing water, [while others with] slightly slower mouths [and] tongues, [are] also not able [to] recite [together. Those who are] lazy, although able [to recite, are] also not willing [to] recite, thus [with the reciting] becoming [that] existing [in] name [only], without true [benefits. For] prostrating [with] repentance [prayers and conducting [of the] Water [And] Land [Dharma Assembly, they can] also [with the above] examples [be similarly] inferred.
[Note 3: Many participants who wish to (or are obliged to) participate in reciting of sūtras do not recognise many words in them, what more to understand and recite them well, to create actual meritorious virtues. There might be misunderstanding and wrong chanting instead, which is surely not good. With only vague recognising and understanding of that recited, it is difficult to have wholehearted recitation to create meritorious virtues properly. While the learned and experienced can recite quickly, others not so will be distracted and disturbed to some extent.]
[With] reciting [of the] Buddha[‘s name], thus [is it] without one person who [is] not able [to] recite [it]. Even if [those who are] lazy [are] not willing [to] recite, yet [with] everyone’s one voice together reciting, those [who do] not block their ears, [will] thus [have the] one line [of the] Buddha’s name, definitely then, distinctly [and] clearly, irrigating into [their] mind [fields (心田)] within. Although not reciting, with reciting, [these are] also without differences. Like persons perfumed [by] incense, [whose] bodies have fragrance. Not specially desiring [to have the] fragrance, having those not expecting thus, yet [having] thus. For relatives, [to] ensure peace [and to] deliver those deceased, all must not not know [this].
[Note 4: Even young children are able to follow everyone to recite the Buddha’s name sincerely. Even those too old and tired (or shy) to recite verbally can hear everyone’s recitation, thus with it registered in their minds. Even sincere listening to others’ recitation is a form of sincere personal recitation. The more there are practising sincerely together, the more meritorious virtues there will be, also offering more motivation for the dying and deceased to practise together. Thus, mindfulness of Buddha is definitely the easiest and most skilful means for guiding all to practise together, for direct and best results.]
[Note 5: Once the Buddha’s name is firmly planted in the mind field (心田), with it as an indestructible vajra seed (金刚种子), it will bear fruit with the right conditions sooner or later, leading to rebirth in the Buddha’s Pure Land.]
[Note 6: Synergising many factors of practice at once, mindfulness of Buddha can create meritorious virtues, express repentance with reverence, and offer guidance to reach Pure Land, encompassing all the benefits of the above practices. Even the Water And Land Dharma Assembly ultimately aims to deliver all beings to Pure Land, which guided mindfulness of Buddha already does directly.]
[Note 7: These reasons and more are why Great Master Yìnguāng taught as he did. As he wrote in One Letter As A Common Reply《一函遍复》: https://purelanders.com/yihan, ‘It must be known that when conducting Buddhist ceremonies (for delivering the deceased), only the meritorious virtues from mindfulness of Buddha are the most great.’ (须知做佛事，唯念佛功德最大。)]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (First Compilation): Reply Letter [To] Huáng Hánzhī;
Record [Of] Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence (201st Short Section): 4th [Chapter]: Discussion [On] Births’ [And] Deaths’ Great Matter: Third, Guidance [On When] Approaching [Life’s] End’s Definite Essentials (11th Short Section)
[Ref: #201 / 4.3.11]
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Record Of Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence