With [The] Bodhi Mind Support-Chanting, Meritorious Virtues [Are] Even [More] Vast
[A] person’s one life’s every matter can all [be] falsified. Only when approaching death, [its manner] cannot [be] falsified. Moreover, [as] she [was] without passions of love [and] attachment, had [a] countenance of joy, [and was] peacefully seated then departing, if not [with] pure karma matured, how [was she] able [to] reach this?
[Note 1: The manner of departing from this life clearly reflects the state of mind then, be it peaceful or disturbed, for better or worse. This letter’s recipients’ mother’s ability to depart with a peaceful and joyful expression (面相安乐), what more when seated upright (端坐) calmly, are clear auspicious signs (瑞相) of having karma for birth in Pure Land most likely being adequate.]
[I] only wish [that] you brothers, with [your] whole family’s family members, [will] earnestly for your mother, recite [Amitā(bha)] Buddha[‘s name (Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛), which will] not only enable [your] mother [to] attain benefits, [this is] truly then, [with] even greater meritorious virtues, compared [with only] your [personal] reciting [of the] Buddha[‘s name].
[Note 2: Since one person’s or a few persons’ sincere mindfulness of the Buddha can create much meritorious virtues, many persons’ similar practice will create even much more meritorious virtues.]
[The] Buddha therefore taught people, [that] all meritorious virtues created [from] reciting [of] sūtras, upholding [of] mantras, [and] reciting [of the] Buddha[‘s name, should] all for [the] Dharma realm’s sentient beings [be] dedicated.
[Note 3: When all practices, including support-chanting (助念), are practised for creating and dedicating meritorious virtues to benefit all beings, not just for one or a few persons, they become Bodhisattva practices (菩萨行) arising from the Bodhi Mind (Bodhicitta: 菩提心). Practising with this motivation creates even more meritorious virtues (功德).]
[If] in normal times, even for [the] Dharma realm’s unrelated sentient beings dedicating, moreover [with your] mother’s death, yet not [with your utmost] sincere mind, for [your] mother reciting [the] Buddha[‘s name]? With [being] able [to], for all sentient beings dedicating, [this is] immediately with [the] Buddhas’ [and] Bodhisattvas’ vows, uniting [with] one another.
[Note 4: If in everyday practice, we are already encouraged to dedicate meritorious virtues from daily practices to benefit all beings, when a family member departs, all the more should we practise mindfulness of Buddha sincerely, also for all beings. To do so is to express the Bodhi Mind similar to that of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.]
Like one drop [of] water thrown into [the] great ocean, [it] immediately with [the] great ocean, [has the] same [as] its depth [and] breadth. If yet [to] reach [the] ocean, then not speaking [of] one drop immediately [with] long rivers [and] large rivers, [it is] certainly with [the] great ocean, [like the] sky [and] ground, far apart.
[Note 5: Even if practising as a single person, but with the Bodhi Mind, one’s otherwise limited meritorious virtues created will merge with that of others’ meritorious virtues, which were also created with the same Bodhi Mind. Synergising in this way, everyone’s meritorious virtues will become great collectively.]
[It should] be known [that of] all those [with] giving to relatives, and [to] all people, all [these] belong [to] personal cultivating [of] personal blessings. Knowing this meaning, [of] those [who] have [the] filial mind, [their] filial minds [will] increase even more. Those without [the] filial mind, also should give rise [to the] filial mind.
[Note 6: Although one practises to create and give (i.e. dedicate) meritorious virtues to others, the one who benefits most directly is oneself. This is a reason why practising with the Bodhi Mind is powerful, for benefitting one and all. Remembering that all beings have been reborn as our mothers and fathers in our past lives can motivate us to have even more filial piety.]
Inviting monastics [to] recite [for] seven [of] seven [days (i.e. 49 days) with the] Buddha[‘s name is] very good, [but] when reciting, you brothers must have someone accordingly reciting together.
[Note 7: In case the deceased’s consciousness is still around, this is to express sincerity in offering guidance and meritorious virtues, instead of merely ‘outsourcing’ filial piety. This is in hope that the deceased will follow one’s example, to also sincerely recite, so as to reach Pure Land. However, for this case, due to the mother’s clear auspicious signs above, she is most likely to have reached it already. Yet, this practice is still encouraged, just in case this is not so. The ‘extra’ meritorious virtues created and dedicated can help the deceased attain a higher grade of birth, and also benefit other beings.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (First Compilation): Reply Letter [To] Zhōu Mèngyóu’s Brothers;
Record [Of] Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence (200th Short Section): 4th [Chapter]: Discussion [On] Births’ [And] Deaths’ Great Matter: Third, Guidance [On When] Approaching [Life’s] End’s Definite Essentials (10th Short Section)
[Ref: #200 / 4.3.10]
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Record Of Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence