All Past Buddhas [From] Mindfulness [Of] Buddha Thus Arise
[To] Swiftly Accomplish Buddhahood, Nothing Surpasses Mindfulness [Of] Buddha
[The] Lotus Tradition’s Fourth Patriarch, Great Master Fǎzhào, in Dàlì’s second year (767 C.E.), [was] staying [to] rest [at] Héngzhōu’s Cloud Peak Monastery (Yúnfēngsì), [when] constantly within [his] porridge alms bowl, appeared [a] sacred realm, [while he did] not know which famous mountain [it] was. [There] were those [who] previously arrived [there, who] said [it] must be [the Mountain Of] Five Terraces (Wǔtáishān: 五台山). [He] later thereupon went [to] visit [it].
[Note 1: A more detailed account of the Master’s biography can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2018/01/02/biography-of-the-fourth-patriarch-of-the-chinese-pure-land-tradition-great-master-fazhao. Héngzhōu (衡州) is the present Héngyáng City (衡阳市).]
[In] Dàlì’s fifth year (769 C.E.), reaching Five Terraces’ County, [from] afar [he] saw white light, [and] followed [the] light [to] go [in] search [of it, to] arrive [at the] Great Noble Bamboo Grove Monastery (Dàshèng Zhúlínsì). [When the] Master entered [the] monastery, [he] arrived [at the] lecture hall, [and] saw Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva] in [the] West, [and] Universal Virtue [Bodhisattva] in [the] East, occupying lion thrones, speaking [the] profound [and] wonderful Dharma.
[Note 2: Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva (文殊菩萨) embodies and expresses perfect Great Wisdom (大智). Universal Virtue (Samantabhadra) Bodhisattva (普贤菩萨) embodies and expresses perfect Great Practice(s) (大行). Both Bodhisattvas vowed to reach the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss (西方极乐世界), as can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2017/05/31/manjusri-bodhisattvas-verses-of-aspiration-for-birth-in-pure-land and https://purelanders.com/2020/05/31/10-the-tenth-great-vow-universally-dedicating-of-universal-virtues-practices-and-vows-chapter respectively.]
[The] Master prostrated [to the] two noble [ones, and] asked, ‘[The Dharma-]Ending [Age’s] ordinary beings, [are] from [the] noble [ones], distant [in] time, [with] knowledge transformed [to be] lowly, [with] defilements [and] obstacles especially deep, [with their] Buddha-nature unable [to] appear. [As the] Buddha’s Dharma [doors are] vast, [and I have] yet [to] examine [and] cultivate [all their] practices, [for] reliance, which Dharma door, is that most essential? I only wish [the] great noble [ones, can] break [my] doubts’ net.’
[Note 3: We have already entered the Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期), during which the quality of the Buddha’s Dharma (佛法) being learnt, practised, realised and shared is in general decline.]
Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva] replied, ‘You now [should practise] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [as] now is [the] right time. [Of] all doors [to] cultivate practices, nothing surpasses mindfulness [of] Buddha, [and] offering [to the] Triple Gem, [to] cultivate both blessings [and] wisdom. These two doors, are [the] most virtuous essentials. Why [is] that so? I, in [the] past, due [to] contemplation [of] Buddha thus, due [to] mindfulness [of] Buddha thus, due [to] making [of] offerings thus, now attained all-knowing wisdom. Thus know [that] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [is the] King Of All Dharma [Doors]. You should constantly [be] mindful [of this] unsurpassable Dharma King, enabling [it to] never rest.’
[Note 4: ‘Now is the right time’ (今正是时) for us too, in this Dharma-Ending Age. The Triple Gem (三宝) consists of the Buddhas, Dharma and Saṃgha (佛法僧), and is the subject of the Buddhists’ Threefold Refuge (三皈依). All-knowing wisdom (一切种智) is the omniscience of Buddhas.]
[The] Master again asked, ‘How [should I be] mindful [of Buddha]?’
Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva] said, ‘[From] this world, [to the] West, is Amitā[bha] Buddha (Āmítuófó). That Buddha’s vows’ power [is] inconceivable. You should continuously [be] mindful [of his name], enabling it [to be] without interruption. After life ends, [you will] definitely [be] reborn [there, to] forever never retrogress.’
[Having] said these words already, then, [the] two great noble [ones], each extended [their] golden hands [to rub [the] Master’s crown, [and] for him conferred another prediction. ‘You, with mindfulness [of] Buddha thus, not long [after, will] realise Unsurpassable Right [And] Equal Bodhi. If [there are] good men, women [and] others, those [who] aspire [to] swiftly accomplish Buddhahood, nothing surpasses mindfulness [of] Buddha, [to] then [be] able, [to] quickly realise Unsurpassable Bodhi.’ [Having] said [this] already, then, [the] two great noble [ones, with] each other spoke gāthās. [The] Master, hearing [these] already, [was with] joyful enthusiasm, [with his] doubts’ net all eliminated.
[Note 5: All who reach the Pure Land will be conferred prediction of Buddhahood. Unsurpassable Right And Equal Bodhi (无上正等菩提) is the complete enlightenment of Buddhahood (佛果). Gāthās (伽陀) are teachings in the form of verses.]
This [is] connected [to] Great Master Fǎzhào, [who] personally reached [the] Bamboo Grove Noble Monastery, [to] receive [that the] two great noble [ones] taught. [The Mountain Of] Five Terraces, [is] thus Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva’s] manifestation [in] response, [his] place of [practising the] path. Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva, is] thus [the] Teacher Of Seven Buddhas.
[Note 6: The mountain is now regarded as Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva’s sacred mountain (圣山). As the monastery was manifested there, it ‘cannot’ be found now, although there are monasteries named after it. Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva can represent Perfect Wisdom as he already attained it. He is the ancient Buddha (古佛) named Dragon Seed Superior Buddha (龙种上佛), who continues to manifest as a perfect Bodhisattva, to be an example to all non-Buddhas. He was the teacher of seven preceding Buddhas, namely (i) Vipaśyin Buddha (毗婆尸佛), (ii) Śikhin Buddha (尸弃佛), (iii) Viśvabhu Buddha (毗舍婆佛), (iv) Krakucchanda Buddha (拘留孙佛), (v) Kanakamuni Buddha (拘那含佛), (vi) Kāśyapa Buddha (迦叶佛) and (vii) Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛).]
[He] personally said, ‘I, in [the] past, due [to] contemplation [of] Buddha thus, due [to] mindfulness [of] Buddha thus… now attained all-knowing wisdom… Therefore, all Dharma [teachings], Prajñā Pāramitā, extremely profound meditative concentrations, and even all Buddhas, all from mindfulness [of] Buddha thus arise.’
[Note 7: Prajñā Pāramitā (般若波罗密[多]) is Perfection Of Wisdom. With the principle of ‘eyes on the prize’ until it is ‘won’, and ‘you become what you are mindful of’, it is ultimately with mindfulness of Buddha (念佛) that Buddhahood is accomplished. In this sense, for the goal of reaching Buddhahood, mindfulness of Buddha is so fundamental a practice, that it is the first, ongoing and last Dharma door (法门). It is the also last in the sense that it is the most lasting in (and beyond) this Dharma-Ending Age (for a hundred years).]
All past Buddhas, [were] still due [to] mindfulness [of] Buddha thus arising, what more [this Dharma-]Ending [Age’s] sentient beings, [with evil] karmas heavy [and] blessings light, obstacles deep [and] wisdom shallow, [who] look down [on] mindfulness [of] Buddha, and [are] not willing [to] cultivate [it]?
[With the] mind desiring [to at] once transcend, [to] directly enter [the] Thus Come [Ones’] ground, yet not knowing [that] desiring [to] walk [in the] dust behind, of Wǔzǔ[shān Monastery’s (五祖山寺) Chán Master Shī]jiè (师戒禅师) [and Chán Master] Cǎotángqīng (草堂清禅师), [they are] still not able [to have their] attainments.
[Note 8: To directly enter the Thus Come Ones’ ground (直入如来地) is to attain Buddhahood. The swiftest way to do so is by entering Pure Land with mindfulness of Buddha, as taught above, to learn from a Buddha, and to practise accordingly. To walk in the dust behind (后尘) is to follow the (wrong) footsteps of those before. The public cases (公案) of these two Self-powered (自力) meditation masters serve as cautionary examples. They warn of possible great and unfortunate consequences, faced even by well-known practitioners, who did not seek birth in Pure Land. They can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2021/12/28/2-chan-master-jie-in-his-later-life-becoming-dongpo and https://purelanders.com/2021/12/28/1-qingcaotang-in-his-later-life-becoming-duke-zenglu respectively.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (Second Compilation): Letter To Venerable Guǎnghuì;
Record [Of] Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence (16th Short Section): 1st [Chapter]: Praise [Of The] Pure Land [Dharma Door Being] Transcendental [And] Supreme (16th Short Section)
[Ref: #16 / 1.16]
Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Record Of Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence