[218] With Earnestness And Utmost Sincerity, Read The Sūtras And See Commentaries 至诚恳切,阅经看注

[218] [With] Earnestness [And] Utmost Sincerity, Read [The] Sūtras [And] See Commentaries


As for reading [of] sūtras, if desiring [to] be Dharma teachers, for all propagating [them, there] should first [be] reading [of the] sūtras’ text, next looking [at their] commentaries [and] sub-commentaries.

[Note 1: Doing the first is to attempt to connect to the Buddha’s teachings directly, while doing the latter is to further understanding of them. For accuracy of meanings, only appropriate (sub-)commentaries by Great Masters and teachers should be studied.]


If not [with] vitality abundant, [and with] views [and] understanding surpassing people, not [having those] not [with] futile efforts [of] mental [and] physical efforts, emptily losing years [and] months. If desiring [to] according [to one’s] part personally attain true benefits, [there] must [be]  earnestness [with] utmost sincerity, [and] purification [of the] three karmas.

[Note 2: To have purity of the three karmas (三业) is to have body, speech and mind (身口意) without evil, by not breaking precepts (戒).]


Perhaps first [with] upright sitting [for a] short while, [with] calming [and] concentrating [of the] body [and] mind, afterwards bowing [to the] Buddha, reciting aloud, or only [with] silent reading. Perhaps after bowing [to the] Buddha, [with] upright sitting [for a] short while, afterwards opening [the] sūtra. [There] must [be the] upright body sitting straight, like facing [the] noble [one’s] countenance, personally listening [to his] perfect voice, not daring [to] sprout one thought [of] laziness, not daring [to] give rise [to] one thought [of] differentiation. From [the] beginning to [the] end, continuously reading away, regardless [of the] text or meaning, similarly not [giving] additional attention. Like this reading sūtras, of people [with] sharp roots, [they will] then [be] able [to] awaken [to the] two emptinesses’ principles, [to] realise true form’s Dharma. Even [if with] roots [and] capacities dull [and] inferior, [they] also can eliminate karmic obstacles, [to] increase [and] grow blessings [and] wisdom.

[Note 3: With sitting upright, this helps to upright one’s mind (正其心). With calmness comes clarity. With bowing, this expresses reverence (恭敬). With reciting aloud, this expresses more deliberation. With silent reading, this allows more internalisation. With not giving rise to differentiation, this allows taking in the teaching as it is, the meaning of which can arise naturally and intuitively in the mind, then or later.]

[Note 4: The two emptinesses (二空) are self emptiness (我空) and dharmas’ emptiness (法空). ‘Dharmas’ are external phenomena of mind and matter. Oneself and dharmas are empty of any substantial unchanging mind and matter, that can be called a ‘true self’ or ‘true dharma’. True form (实相) is this reality to be realised.]

[Note 5: As reading and reciting sūtras create much meritorious virtues (功德), these are able to eliminate karmic obstacles, and grow blessings and wisdom.]


[The] Sixth [Chán] Patriarch said, ‘Only seeing [the] Vajra Sūtra, [one is] immediately able [to, with a] clear mind see [one’s] nature.’ Then pointing [out] like this seeing, thus calling [this] ‘only’. [If] able [to] like this see, all [the] Great Vehicle’s sūtras, all [are] able [to, with a] clear mind see [one’s] nature. How [is this] only [for the] Vajra Sūtra as thus?

[Note 6: As all the Great Vehicle’s sūtras contain teachings that enable the seeing of one’s nature, this is so.]


If along the way differentiating, ‘This one line is [with] what meaning?’, ‘This one paragraph is [with] what meaning?’, [these] completely belong [to] ordinary passions, deluded thoughts, speculations, assumptions, considerations [and] measures. How [are these] able [to] secretly correspond [to the] Buddha’s intention, [to] perfectly awaken [to the] sūtras’ purpose, due [to] this [have] karmic obstacles eliminated, [with] blessings [and] wisdom increased highly? [When Great Master] Zhìzhě recited [a] sūtra, [he] suddenly [had] great awakening, [with] tranquillity thus entering concentration. How [can it be] having differentiation’s mind, [with] that able [to] be attained?

[Note 7: Great Master Zhìzhě awakened upon reciting this line in the Wonderful Dharma (Lotus) Flower Sūtra’s《妙法莲华经》23rd Chapter On Medicine King Bodhisattva’s Past Matters Chapter《药王菩萨本事品第二十三》, ‘(It) is true diligence, (that) is named (with the) true Dharma making offerings (to) Thus Come (Ones).’ (是真精进,是名真法供养如来。).]


An ancient virtuous [one was] writing [the] Dharma Flower Sūtra, [with] wholehearted focused attention, thereupon attaining mindfulness utmost [and] passions’ exhaustion, until [the] sky certainly darkened, [while he] still as before wrote. [When an] attendant came [and] entered, saying, ‘[As the] sky [has] certainly darkened, how [are you] still writing?’ Following [which] immediately extending [his] hand, not seeing [his] palm. Like this reading sūtras, with contemplating Chán, investigating head phrases, upholding mantras [and] reciting [the] Buddha[‘s name (Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛), having the] same one focused mind [with] devotion, until exerting efforts [for a] long time, [this] naturally has benefits of one day suddenly threading through [with understanding].

[Note 8: All Dharma learning and practice should have the same long-term focused devotion and diligence, for there to be breakthroughs.]

Chán Master Míngxuě Jiàoxìn, [a] Níngbō Fǔchéng person, [had] eyes not [even] recognising [the word] ‘dīng’. [In his] middle age [then] leaving [the] household [life, with] hardship contemplating [and] efforts investigating [the Dharma]. Bearing [that which] people [are] not able [to] bear, practising that [which] people [are] not able [to] practise, his ascetic practices [were] truly as those people [are] difficult [to be] able [to undertake. After a] long time [with] great penetration [and] great awakening, without thinking, [with] that spoken, [having] wonders agreeing [with] Chán’s ‘secrets’. Still not recognising words, [and] not able [to] write, [after a] long time then recognising words. Also [after a] long time then, [with his] handwriting bold [and] unrestrained, unexpectedly [becoming] a great calligrapher. All these benefits, [are] all [from] non-differentiation, [and] focused diligence [with] contemplative investigation within arising. Those reading sūtras, also should [be] with this as [the] method.

[Note 9: To have eyes not even recognising the word ‘dīng’ (目不识丁) is to not even know how to read words as simple as ‘dīng’ (丁).]

[Note 10: Chán’s ‘secrets’ are the Dharma realised from awakening.]

[Note 11: Although there is first with non-differentiation reading the sūtras, there is also next with contemplative investigation looking at their commentaries and sub-commentaries, doing both with the same focused diligence.]

Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (First Compilation): Fifth Reply Letter [To A] Certain Yǒngjiā Layperson;
Record [Of] Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence (218th Short Section): 5th [Chapter]: Encouragement [Of The] Mind [To] Dwell [In] Sincerity [And] Reverence (13th Short Section)

[Ref: #218 / 5.13]

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Related Text:

Record Of Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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