How To Know [The] Pure Land Dharma Door Should [Be] Learnt And Practised Before Knowing All Other Teachings?
41. If Not Studying [The] Sūtras, Completely Visiting [And Learning From] Good-]Knowing [Friends], How [To] Know [If I] Should [Or] Should Not Learn [The] Pure Land Dharma Door?
Now representing, for replying, [as] I [have] already completely studied [the] teachings’ principles, [and] universally got close to all noble [ones, I am] thus able [to know] this. How can it be that [it is] usual [to have] those [with] so-called study, [who] got close [to them]? How [is it] with this said?
[Note 1: The Great Master studied all sūtras taught by the Buddha in their entirety not once, or even twice, but thrice. With his thorough understanding of the Dharma, he can be said to have gotten close to all noble ones, who also brought him closer and closer to the Pure Land teachings. However, perhaps because it is not easy to understand the many voluminous sūtras, he did not encourage all to do so, while guiding us to focus on the Pure Land teachings, as they already represent the essence of the sūtras, as he further explains below.]
[The] Pure Land Dharma Door, [was with] Śākya[muni Buddha] and A]mitā[bha Buddha (阿弥陀佛), by] them that established.
[Note 2: There are more than 300 sūtras, in which Śākyamuni Buddha taught about Amitābha Buddha. This shows the great emphasis on the Pure Land teachings connected to the latter.]
[With] Mañjuśrī [Bodhisattva and] Universal Virtue [Bodhisattva, by] them that pointed [for] ‘return’. [With] Aśvaghoṣa [Bodhisattva and] Nāgārjuna [Bodhisattva, by] them that propagated.
[Note 3: Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva is the personification of perfect wisdom (大智), who expressed Aspiration to reach Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) Pure Land, as can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2017/05/31/manjusri-bodhisattvas-verses-of-aspiration-for-birth-in-pure-land.
Note 4: Universal Virtue Bodhisattva is the personification of perfect practice (大行), whose practices and vows (行愿) can be see at https://purelanders.com/xingyuan, with his Tenth Great Vow being dedication (回向) of all meritorious virtues (功德) to reach the Pure Land.
Note 5: Aśvaghoṣa Bodhisattva wrote the Treatise On Awakening Of Faith In The Mahāyāna《大乘起信论》, which encourages mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), as can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2019/03/28/mindfulness-of-buddha-in-the-treatise-on-awakening-of-faith-in-the-mahayana-net-tearing-commentary.
Note 6: Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva wrote the Treatise On Great Wisdom’s Perfection《大智度论》, and aspired to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, as can be seen at https://purelanders.com/2021/08/31/selections-from-nagarjuna-bodhisattvas-aspiration-verses.]
[With the Great Masters], Kuānglú, Tiāntái, Qīngliáng, Yǒngmíng, Liánchí [and] Ǒuyì, [by] them that brought out [and] advocated, with universal encouraging [of it for] those, if noble or ordinary, foolish or wise.
[Note 7: ‘Kuānglú’ refers to Lúshān’s (庐山) Pure Land Tradition’s 1st Patriarch Great Master Huìyuǎn (净土宗初祖慧远大师), who founded the Chinese Pure Land Tradition.
Note 8: ‘Tiāntái’ refers to Mount Tiāntái’s (天台) Tiāntái Tradition’s First Patriarch Great Master Zhìzhě (天台宗初祖智者大师), whose best known Pure Land work is the Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land《净土十疑论》, which can be seen at https://purelanders.com/shiyi.
Note 9: ‘Qīngliáng’ refers to the Flower Adornment Tradition’s 4th Patriarch National Teacher Qīngliáng (华严宗四祖清凉国师) or Great Master Chéngguān (澄观大师), who had his ‘hand not putting down the beads of complete brightness’ (手不释圆明之珠), which is to always practise mindfulness of Buddha for complete awakening. He is regarded as a manifestation of Flower Adornment Bodhisattva (华严菩萨). He was the National Teacher of seven emperors, and wrote the Flower Adornment Sūtra Commentary《华严经疏》, which amounted to more than 400 scrolls. Note that this ‘King Within Sūtras‘ (经中之王) concluding chapter is on seeking birth in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land: https://purelanders.com/xingyuan. (A brief Chinese account of his life can be seen at https://www.lingyinsi.com/detail_15555.html.)
Note 10: Great Masters Yǒngmíng, Liánchí and Ǒuyì are the Pure Land Tradition’s 6th, 8th and 9th Patriarchs respectively, whose brief biographies can be seen at https://purelanders.com/zushi, along with that of the 1st Patriarch.]
All these Bodhisattva Mahāsattvas, in thousands [of] hundreds [of] years before, earlier already for me completely studied [the] treasuries’ teachings, specially picking out this [Dharma door]. Not [needing to] sever confusions [and evil] karmas, attaining [in] advance, replacement’s position, immediately [in] this one life, definitely exiting [this] bird cage, [with the] utmost complete [and] utmost sudden, utmost simple [and] utmost easy, together gathering [the] Chán, Teachings [and] Vinaya [traditions], yet higher than Chán, Teachings [and] Vinaya [traditions], then [for the] shallow [and] then profound, then [with the] skilful [and] then true, [it is the] special, transcendental, natural [and] wonderful Dharma.
[Note 11: In the Buddha’s time, about 3,000 years ago, the Great Bodhisattvas (大菩萨) who attended his teachings (and those of other Buddhas before) have already studied all of the Dharma, thus choosing to focus on the Pure Land Dharma Door unanimously, as featured at the ending of the Buddha’s first Great Vehicle teaching taught, the Flower Adornment Sūtra《华严经》. In this sense, with their great examples shown, be we shallow or profound in our spiritual capacities, they have already helped us to choose this most skilful and ultimately true Dharma Door. It is the Easy Practice Path (易行道), that is extremely streamlined, and does not require great awakening and elimination of all evil karmas before reaching Āmítuófó’s Pure Land. As reaching the Pure Land assures the Position Of One Lifetime To Replacement (一生补处) (of Buddhas entering Parinirvāṇa [入涅槃]) can be attained swiftly (i.e. suddenly) through it, the complete liberation of Buddhahood is guaranteed. This Dharma Door is able to gather all other Dharma Doors of other traditions as mindfulness of Buddha contains the essence of the Dharma.]
I [have] faith [in the] Buddhas [and] Patriarchs, with [these] ancients as teachers. How can this be not as good as getting close [to the] present time’s [good-]knowing [friends], as [those] exceed them?
[Note 12: The ancients are the Buddhas and Patriarchs, with the latter further explaining the teachings of the first, for us to easier understand them. Together, they are our best good-knowing friends, who are much more superior to this Dharma-Ending Age’s (末法时期) living ‘good’-knowing friends found, who might not be good enough, and are increasingly ‘less good’ as this age progresses. For accurate Pure Land teachings, there should be learning from the Pure Land Patriarchs, who specialise in them: https://purelanders.com/zushi.]
[The] Flower Adornment, [this] one sūtra, [is the] king of [the] Three Treasuries, [with its] final one method, according importance [to the] Vows’ King. [The] Flower Treasury ocean assembly, [are with] all [who have] realised [the] Dharma Body, [who] all sought rebirth [in the Pure Land], hoping [to] perfect [the] Buddha fruit. I [am] what person, [to] dare [to] not reverently follow [them]?
[Note 13: The Flower Adornment Sūtra《华严经》is called the King Of All Sūtras (经中之王). Its final one method for cultivation to attain Buddhahood is the Pure Land Dharma Door, in its last chapter, Universal Virtue Bodhisattva Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter《普贤行愿品》: https://purelanders.com/xingyuan, which teaches the Ten Great Vows’ King (十大愿王). Those who have realised the Dharma Body of the Buddhas are the Dharma Body’s Great Beings (法身大士), who are Great Bodhisattvas already capable of manifesting as Buddhas to guide other beings.]
[With] abandoning [of] this wild mind, energetically practise [this] path. [Of its] meritorious virtues [and] benefits, [you] should personally realise [to] know [them]. Why wait [to] completely visit [and learn from good-knowing friends, with this] then as knowing [the] Dharma?
[Note 14: For how to practise mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), see https://purelanders.com/2016/02/17/how-do-i-start-nianfo-practice. With its value already personally known as explained, and as experienced, there is no need to learn many other teachings, before knowing the essence of the Dharma, which can be realised with this practice.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(First Reply Letter [To A] Certain Yǒngjiā Layperson)
[By] Layperson Huìmíng Arranged
(Great Master Yìnguāng’s Pure Land Teachings [Via] 84 Questions)
Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an