[The] Buddha’s Two Lines [As] Brief Precepts
[For the] utmost [true] saying [on] upholding precepts, [that we] only [have to] first observe, [are the] Buddha’s two lines [as] brief precepts. What [are] these precepts then? [They] say, ‘[Of] all evil not do, [of] all good practise.’ These two lines embrace all precepts’ Dharma [teachings], completely without having omissions.
[Note 1: While this saying might be assumed to be similar to the moral essence of other religions and philosophies, there are some key differences unique to Buddhism. According to the Buddha’s teachings, all evil (恶) is everything in thought, word and deed (身口意), that arise from the three poisons (三毒) of greed, anger and ignorance (贪嗔痴), be they towards oneself or any other sentient being. Conversely, all good (善) arise from the ‘three antidotes’ (三药) of generosity (布施), compassion (慈悲) and wisdom (智慧). This avoiding of evil and doing of good (止恶行善) must be complete and perfected for all beings, for Buddhahood (佛果) to be attained.]
This [is] connected [to the] Thus Come [One’s] Precepts Sūtra’s words within. [As] Lord Wénchāng quoted and used them in Hidden Good Deeds’ Text, [they] absolutely cannot [be] said [to have] originally come from Hidden Good Deeds’ Text.
[Note 2: Although not a traditionally Buddhist text, the Hidden Good Deeds’ Text《阴骘文》also encourages avoiding of evil and doing of good. As also taught by the Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) in the Dharma Line Sūtra《法句经》(Dharmapada), ‘Of all evil not do, of all good practise, and to self-purify this mind, these are all Buddhas’ teachings.’ (诸恶莫作，众善奉行，自净其意，是诸佛教。) This verse was also taught by the Buddha in Great Parinirvāṇa Sūtra《大般涅槃经》.]
[Note 3: This can perhaps be seen as the Pure Land Tradition’s (净土宗) further interpretation of the verse above – ‘At once mindful of Buddha, end evil and practise good, and with Self and Other-power, completely purify this mind.’ (当下念佛，止恶行善，以自他力，圆净其意。)]
These two lines, [if] superficially thus regarding them, [are] seemingly without [that] unusual [or] special. If [when] at [the] point [of] raising minds [and] moving thoughts examining, then able [to] completely guard [it] without violation (All giving rise [to] minds [and] moving thoughts, [should] not allow [the] sprouting [of] one thought of [that] not good. Then [of] all precepts, all can [be] completely upheld. See ‘Second Compilation’s Reply Letter [To] Sòng Huìzhàn’), these persons [have] already deeply entered [the] domain of noble sages.
[Note 4: Even apparently ‘simple’ yet fundamental Dharma teachings, when practised well, will lead to profound spiritual fruition. To be mindfully vigilant of what thoughts arise, so as to prevent evil thoughts from forming and powering words and deeds, is like guarding a mousehole to ensure the harmful do not ‘escape’ and grow to create chaos. Those who can do this perfectly with adequate practice will become enlightened ones.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (Third Compilation): Reply Letter [To] Chén Fēiqīng;
Record [Of] Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence (281st Short Section): 8th [Chapter]: Explanations [On] Common Doubts [And] Confusions: Discussions [On] Precepts [And] Rules (1st Short Section)
[Ref: #281 / 8.8.1]
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Record Of Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence
Verses On Cultivation Of All Teachings