Table of Contents

祝福... 3

Best Wishes. 3

新年谈“新”... 3

The ‘New’ in New Year. 3

一叶之舟... 3

A Leaf Boat. 3

艺术与净土... 3

Art and the Pure Land. 3

迷航... 3

Lost in the Clouds. 3

说道理... 3

On Reasoning. 3

骄傲的人类... 3

Human Pride. 3

蝉鸣... 3

Chirping Cicadas. 3

问路... 3

Asking for Directions. 3

颠倒的信... 3

Misguided Belief 3

孤独的人... 3

Lonely Hearts. 3

人不当人看... 3

Looking at People. 3

为什么... 3

Why?. 3

最后... 3

The Final Moment. 3

无常... 3

Impermanence. 3

退一步... 3

A Step Back. 3

... 3

Dreaming of Dreams. 3

扫帚涅槃... 3

A Broom's Nirvana. 3

苦乐... 3

Suffering and Joy. 3

念佛胜家亲... 3

Reciters Are Closer Than Blood Relations. 3

... 3

Dream... 3

公共资源... 3

Public Resource. 3

语言的力量... 3

The Power of Language. 3

隐私... 3

The Secrets of Others. 3

得罪佛?... 3

Can We Offend Amitabha?. 3

小人物... 3

To Be a Nobody. 3

行善要机密... 3

Doing Good Secretly. 3

时间好比自来水管... 3

Time Is Like a Water Pipe. 3

一点点... 3

Just a Bit. 3

做个人生背包客... 3

Live Like a Backpacker. 3

佛不是神... 3

Buddhas Aren’t Gods. 3

平安... 3

Being Safe. 3

善恶的木桩... 3

Good and Evil 3

我们是这个世间的客人... 3

Guests in the World. 3

佛光无尽... 3

Limitless Light. 3

You Are So Bright. 3

‘You Are So Bright’ 3

听心... 3

Listening to the Mind. 3

雪地潜逃... 3

Escape in the Snow.. 3

以爱止恨... 3

Nip Hatred in the Bud, With Love. 3

再笨也要学着去爱... 3

Let’s Learn to Love. 3

爱能融化一切... 3

Love Melts Everything. 3

解决问题与取消问题... 3

Problems: To Solve or to Cancel?. 3

暗夜... 3

Dark Night. 3

稳当... 3

Safe and Sound. 3

六字名号与五脏六腑... 3

The Six-Character Name and Our Internal Organs. 3

鸡同鸭讲... 3

Dialogue of the Deaf 3

乡下郞... 3

Country Bumpkin. 3

怎样念佛... 3

How to Recite Amitabha’s Name. 3

不小心碰到... 3

Accidental Call 3

归命... 3

Entrusting Our Lives to Amitabha. 3

“忏悔”与“后悔”... 3

Repentance or Regret?. 3

松子与松树... 3

Pine Seeds and Pine Trees. 3

自由... 3

Freedom... 3

说话不算数... 3

My Promise Doesn’t Count. 3

人人有权赞佛... 3

Everyone Has the Right to Acclaim Amitabha. 3

灯的信仰... 3

The Faith of a Lamp. 3

圣贤教育与凡夫教育... 3

Education for Saints or Ordinary People?. 3

佛法不可比... 3

Buddhism Has No Comparison. 3

我在中国想念你... 3

I Am Thinking of You in China. 3

“不”与“不”不一样... 3

The Multiple Meanings of ‘No’ 3

念佛与做人... 3

Amitabha-Recitation and Being a Good Person. 3

心安... 3

Pacifying the Mind. 3

善护这颗心... 3

Protect This Heart Carefully. 3

唯一的“亲人”... 3

Our Only Intimate. 3

夜读... 3

Reading at Night. 3

碧空中的丝丝云... 3

A Sliver of Cloud in the Sky. 3

时间与念头... 3

Time and Thoughts. 3

认识佛... 3

Knowing Amitabha. 3

苦与累... 3

Suffering and Weariness. 3

记得与归命... 3

Remembering and Entrusting. 3

“幸”还是“不幸”... 3

‘Happy’ or ‘Unhappy’ 3

重视因缘... 3

Pay Attention to Causative Karma. 3

消化因缘... 3

Digesting Causative Karma. 3

单独传法... 3

Exclusive Propagation. 3

将错就错 西方极乐... 3

Make the Best of Our Mistakes. 3

信仰的灯... 3

Lamp of Faith. 3

人为何喜新厌旧?... 3

Out With the Old, In With the New.. 3

大盗... 3

Bandits. 3

水涨船高... 3

The Water Swells, the Boat Rises. 3

佛无味... 3

Amitabha Is Without Taste. 3

佛不可吃... 3

Amitabha Can’t be Eaten. 3

佛淡如水... 3

Recitation Is as Insipid as Water. 3

影子... 3

Shadows. 3

一叶知秋... 3

A Solitary Leaf Heralds the Fall 3

阿弥陀佛不值一文... 3

Amitabha Buddha Isn’t Worth a Cent. 3

钱并非越多越好... 3

More Isn’t Better. 3

... 3

Change. 3

婴儿饮食... 3

Diet for Babies. 3







Best Wishes

How time flies, another year has gone by.

But what exactly is time? Time is the endless cycle of death and rebirth. However, once we are reborn in the Land of Bliss, we will enjoy an infinite life without further birth and death. No more lamentations over the constraints of time. In this world can anyone break through time and its constraints?  Can it be done by even our wisest person?

Let us then accomplish dream like Dharma activities to overcome the illusion of time and its dreamlike limitations. May we all awaken from this dream and attain rebirth in the Pure Land as soon as possible. Who will awaken first? It will be reciters of Namo Amitabha Buddha.

Due to our limitations as human beings, many of our seemingly warm words of blessing really imply negative fears. These reflect our feelings of helplessness and our unrealistic hopes, such as wishing each other happiness, cheerfulness, health and longevity.

 Blessings for peace and happiness are mostly superficial whitewashes. The truthful admonition that “life is suffering” reveals loving care and a profound concern.





The ‘New’ in New Year

A year is new only when our hearts feel new. A year can be a happy one only when our hearts are happy. If we wish to have a “happy new year,” we need to cultivate “happy new hearts.”

If our hearts stayed in an old state, every incoming year would feel the same as the year before, not a new one. But if our hearts are revitalized, every minute and second would be new. There would be no need to await a changing of the year.

Novelty, news developments and more knowledge do not refresh our hearts. By reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha and connecting our hearts with his, we renew them constantly. It’s like providing a muddy stream with a source of fresh water, turning the waterway sparklingly clear.





A Leaf Boat

On a peaceful, sunny day, a leaf is lazily floating on the surface of water. It bobs along on the small waves and sails willy-nilly in the gentle breeze, saying proudly: “Look at my expertise at harnessing the wind and waves; I am the sovereign master of my course!”

But before it can finish bragging, a large wave looms and sinks it to the bottom of the pond.

The ship of life is like the leaf drifting on the surface of water. When riding on the crest of success, we would believe that we have mastery over everything. The vessel of science and technology, though a particular source of pride for humans, has always capsized suddenly in earthquakes and tsunamis.




Art and the Pure Land

What is art? It is beauty, and the process of discovering, creating and expressing beauty. The Land of Bliss is pure, absolute, infinite beauty. The sutras speak of “immeasurable splendor.” So artists should aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land.

Art derives from nature, and it refines and transcends nature. Consider Bodhisattva Dharmakara, who absorbed the finest aspects of 21 billion Buddha-lands and accomplished the Pure Land’s unparalleled splendors. Artists should be more attuned than others to Bodhisattva Dharmakara’s “sublimity of vows.”








Lost in the Clouds

Suppose you are on a flight. The aircraft is state-of-the-art, comfortable. Beautiful sky outside the window, attentive stewardesses, soft music, classy passengers ... Everything is perfect. You are sure that the journey will be quite pleasant.

But suddenly comes the voice of the captain: “Our plane is off course and has lost contact with the ground. We have no landing point and must keep flying. We have enough fuel to do so only tens of minutes.” How would you feel then? All those wonderful feelings disappear instantly. “Captain, please try all means to find a safe landing spot before the fuel runs out!”

When a person is born, the plane of his life takes off. Even if one has another 40 or 50 years to live, the time is like the fuel on the plane: It only decreases and will soon be used up.

Where is the landing point of our life? Can we enjoy living at ease before we find it?

Power, status, money, career, marriage, family – are any of these the final landing point of our life?

Someone who believes that these are the aim of life is like a lost plane taking the clouds in the air as a safe landing field.












On Reasoning

Our vacuous human minds need to be fed with reason. But truly intelligent persons know that rationales, theories and arguments only provide us inner comfort.

A mind that is accustomed to complex thinking needs reasoning. But an upright one does not.

Is it justifiable to recite Namo Amitabha Buddha? No, it isn’t.

Do we need any justification to recite his name? No, we don't.

Then isn't that just superstition? There is no reasoning in reciting Namo Amitabha Buddha. We do not need it; there is nothing to be reasoned about. It is natural, then, that name-recitation is considered superstitious. But what harm does that do?

Only the poor need to conceal their poverty. The rich do not care whether others consider them penniless.

I used to believe that I understood the rationale for name-recitation. But now I know that I am totally ignorant of such things.

There was a time when I needed to understand the rationale before I could recite Namo Amitabha with peace of mind. But now I have no need of understanding, and I feel more at ease.

If someone asks about the reasoning behind name recitation, I would still instruct him, as he believes it to be a necessity. But I know at heart that this is only a shiny trinket used to stop a child from crying — pure expediency.

Generally speaking, the more one understands the rationale, the deeper the confidence he has. But such understanding is only necessary for arrogant people with dull faculties. The humble, modest ones, with profound virtuous roots, have no need of it.







Human Pride

The city becomes noisy in the early dawn. Actually it has not rested all night.

In constant motion, busy people in busy crowds, making a busy city. But where are we going?  Where is our destination?  Where can we take a break? When can we resume a life where days are days, and nights are nights?

Over a mere five thousand years, mankind has created many cultures and civilizations. Modern skyscrapers compose our metropolises. Extensive traffic networks are rapidly expanding. The internet is everywhere and the economy prospers. Science and technology facilitate exploration into outer space, hence mankind stands proudly on the earth saying, “I am the master of the planet.”

However, as long as we remain unable to eliminate wars we will still be a tribal people, not yet out of savagery and barbarism. A person who is enslaved by greed, anger and delusion is still an ordinary human being, full of negative karma and trapped in the cycle of rebirth.

I don’t see anything that humans can really take pride in.




Chirping Cicadas

Cicadas may chirp themselves hoarse, but cannot express correct knowledge of things. The speech and thoughts of ordinary beings are like the chirping of cicadas – loud but meaningless. They are just noise from hollow arguments. The sole exception is when we recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha.”

Humans are intoxicated with their own knowledge, erudition, perspectives, and use an array of languages to express them. That’s like cicadas inebriated by their own loud chirpings. Ultimately these are all meaningless. The only truth, the ultimate reality, is our recitation of “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” But people are not aware of this.




Asking for Directions

If we ask for directions and get advice, we are grateful to the person who gives it. We follow the instruction and reach the destination without mishap. We wouldn’t doubt the person without reason or argue with him: “Why is the way you indicated the right one? How can you convince me you aren’t wrong? I must understand the principles behind your directions before I set out. Otherwise, I just won’t start.”

On the way of life, we are confused seekers. The Buddhas give us directions, but some people insist on knowing the principles before they believe and set out. Are they wise? When can they arrive at the destination of nirvana?









Misguided Belief

“Eight glasses of water a day is good for health.”

“A glass of milk a day builds a strong nation.”

Do you believe in those myths? Many people do.

Who said those things? On what basis? Are they really true? No one asks such questions. Since everyone believes the statements and repeats them, so will I, goes the sentiment.

That “everyone” is tricky. No specific person can be identified and held accountable. But what “he” says is considered true.

The Buddha says, “From here, towards the west and passing a hundred thousand koṭis of Buddha realms, there is a world named Bliss. In that land is a Buddha named Amitabha, who is now teaching the Dharma.” But many who hear this are skeptical.

The well-grounded teachings of the Buddha are recorded clearly in the sutras. Those who hear them dither and doubt. Yet the ill-founded, irresponsible words of ordinary beings are readily believed. Is this not misguided?






Lonely Hearts

Each of us comes into the world alone and leaves it alone. We live lonely lives. Do we really have friends or confidants? “How hard it is to find a soulmate!” A portrait of us all.

To avoid loneliness, people bond together in families, form groups and societies, and engage in activities with others. However, loneliness is something inside us. It is like an inner darkness that isn’t dispelled even by strong sunlight. External contacts cannot eliminate the loneliness of the spirit. Rather, they are prone to enhance conflict. Poor humans – uncomfortable alone, and together. Where is the wisdom?

Lips can be kissed and skin caressed. But who has really kissed our lonely hearts or embraced them warmly?

Trapped in the dark dungeon of the ego, our hearts have not been kissed or caressed for countless kalpas. How lonely and cold they are!




Looking at People

When dealing with others, we should not regard them as independent, specific individuals. Each person is only an assembly of causes and effects, a circumstance of karma, a cloud of smoke – unfree and non-autonomous. He may refer to himself constantly as “I” or “me,” but that entity does not actually exist. So don’t be fooled.

If we know that everything is just cause and effect, we would be rational, not emotional. Would we shout in anger at a cloud of smoke? Would we point to it, haranguing: “You’re to blame for this”?










Why is the sky overcast? Because there are clouds in the sky. Why are there clouds? Because water vapor condenses to form them.

Overcast sky, clouds, condensing vapor. All three refer to the same thing. The answers to the “whys” are actually another way of replying to the question of “what.”

If we continue to press questions, no one would be able to answer. All responses would become like tongue-twisters, going around in circles.

Why are leaves green? Why are flowers red? Do we really know?

Why is this red? Why is that green? Because this is red and that is green. There is no why.

Ha, so we have the ultimate answer: This is red, that is green. There is no why, only what.

All things were originally so. Would that we can believe firmly, and forgo the pressing.












The Final Moment

I often hear people say: "I know it's good to recite Namo Amitabha Buddha single-mindedly. I shall practice it at the final moment, when my number is up. In the meantime, let me learn something else first." It's laudable that they recognize the value of single-minded practice. However, it's a shame they can never tell when their time will be up.

We have been trapped in the cycle of reincarnation for countless kalpas. We must attain liberation in this lifetime. So this life is the final life.

We never know whether we will be able to put on our socks and shoes again tomorrow after taking them off tonight. So today is the last day.

There is no guarantee that we will return home once we have put our foot down on the car's accelerator and hit the road. The next moment is the final moment.

Tens of thousands of people are killed instantly when a tsunami or earthquake suddenly strikes. Now is the last moment.

The present moment can be final, and our end may come any time. Where will our spirit go if our breath just stops suddenly? Whom will we beg for another last moment? So let's start whole-heartedly reciting Amitabha's name at once.

The Buddha says, "We only live from breath to breath."

Master Tanluan advises, "Don't look to any final moment."

Master Shandao exhorts, "Recite persistently."

If we wait till the last moment to recite, the chance may not be there. In any event, to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha does not get in the way of anything. Why do we have to set any timeframe?







The tight and narrow confines of the Three Realms are suffocating. The constantly spinning wheel of impermanence makes us dizzy. This world is not fun; it's a tough place.

But when we recite Namo Amitabha Buddha, we can finally stretch, relax our shoulders, inhale and exhale deeply. Being in the presence of Namo Amitabha Buddha, we can exclaim: “Impermanence, you are at an end.”

Impermanence, the actual ruler of this world, has the power to destroy and subdue everything. All the stars of the universe fall under its wheel, like clods of dirt that are crushed on a busy road. So how can our fragile bodies of flesh and blood resist? Despite our petitions and pleading, we have never been exempted from the sufferings of impermanence. But today I can say: “Impermanence, you might as well run over me now, for you won’t have another chance.”

Impermanence, when we meet again I shall tell you: “Hey buddy, I know well your game and its rules, and thank you for your final facilitation. Now, will you join my game and follow my rules?” I believe you will say yes.







A Step Back

Taking a step backward is wonderful. As the saying goes: Take a step back, and endless vistas open up. 

A tiny step, and boundless space is ours. Further steps are both unnecessary and unavailable.

Move back internally. The skies within are vast, while those outside aren’t big enough.

Withdraw and slip away, like a cicada casting off its skin. We will be unnoticed by others. Even King Yama has no idea of our whereabouts.

The Pure Land is where we can step back. Without it, we cannot. A single step separates the Pure Land from this world.




Dreaming of Dreams

A dreamer says in his dream, “I had a dream last night.” In the dream, he believes he is awake, but actually he is dreaming. He is not aware of it. Only when he really wakes up does he understand he was only speaking of dreaming within a dream.

There are so-called “enlightened persons” in today’s world. Not all of them deceive people intentionally. They are merely speaking about dreaming in a dream, thinking they’re awake.

Unless we are reborn in the Pure Land, it is hard to awaken from this dream!







A Broom's Nirvana

I am a broom. Because I do my best to sweep away dirt, I accumulate it and became the filthiest appliance in the world. Some people may feel I’ve been wronged, for I was completely clean at birth. I sacrificed everything to clean the living room, bedroom and the floor – and became “unclean” as a result. Yet I don’t mind at all, for that’s my responsibility. It also manifests my worth.  So long as I can make the floor clean, I don’t mind getting a bit tainted.

I remember the first time I sallied forth on my owner’s behalf. I was fearless, venturing behind the doors, under the beds, into the corners of the house. The dirtier the spots, the happier I was. Soon everything was spic and span – and I took on my dirty look.

When I am not working, my owner hides me behind a door or another remote spot, but I never feel lonely. When I am needed, I appear immediately. Every time I am “favored for service” by my owner, I am delighted. I serve without grievance or regret and receive the deep appreciation of my owner. There’s even a saying – “The lowly broom is valued by its owner” (a sentimental attachment).

After countless cleaning sessions, I’ve grown old. Worn and tired, I’m only half the broom I was. My increasing feebleness prompted me to ask my owner to retire me, to make way for a younger, more capable generation. But as long as my owner does not abandon me, I will do my best to complete my tasks.

I have swept a mountain of dirt and trash in my time. That is where I will rest in peace one day. Again, people may say that it’s not right for me to be treated so callously, after my dedicated and valuable service. Even worse is to have to lie with the refuse I swept; I would be mortified by their mockery. Thanks very much, but I’ve never felt that way. Instead, I am deeply grateful to the rubbish I swept, for it enabled me to complete my meritorious actions and attain enlightenment. I would rather stay with it, even as I enter nirvana.














Suffering and Joy

One can pay no attention to emptiness and form, theory and practice, delusion and awakening, wisdom and foolishness, even good and evil. But no one can ignore suffering and joy.

Suffering and joy cut to the quick – into our bodies, bones, hearts. Every minute and second, every thought and feeling, suffering and joy are inseparable from us.

To live is to suffer and to feel joy; life is a process of striving to leave suffering behind for joy. The history of humankind is a saga of struggle to replace misery with happiness. The instinctive pursuit, the atavistic impulse of all sentient beings is to lose suffering and win joy. But have we reached this goal? Have science, philosophy, the arts and religion attained it?

Only if we forsake suffering for joy in the ultimate sense does life take on value, dignity, even brilliance. Otherwise it would resemble endless chastisement.

Life is precious. But if we cannot leave suffering behind, all would be anguish. We would go from pain to deeper pain, boundless pain – an endless ocean of suffering. Wouldn’t life then be a form of punishment?

Only by abandoning suffering for joy – realizing great, eternal joy – can our lives become radiant, complete and splendid.

All forms of inequalities eventually manifest in suffering and joy. So long as someone is suffering, the world would lack equality and peace.

It will only have peace when suffering is entirely eradicated.

Amitabha Buddha exists to eliminate the suffering of all beings and give them ultimate joy.

If Buddhism is unable to remove suffering and bring joy, it would lose its reason for being.

Besides the Pure Land path of Amitabha Buddha, is there a Dharma path that can allow mediocre ordinary beings to replace suffering with joy – to leave behind the anguish of life and death for the elation of nirvana?




Reciters Are Closer Than Blood Relations

When together, Amitabha-reciters are truly close-knit. This closeness has a common origin: the Buddha and the Dharma. It surpasses family affinity and relations based on flesh and blood. Amitabha-reciters are siblings in the same Buddhist family, all belonging to one compassionate and loving father, and sharing the same Buddha-mind. Bathed in the name of Amitabha Buddha, reciters are real soulmates, with great empathy and feelings for one another. Such empathy and feelings can only be genuine when minds connect. With this special relationship, fellow reciters say goodbye to countless eons of loneliness. We think of and warm one another dearly. This is a great benefit of Amitabha-recitation in the present lifetime.

Only Amitabha-reciters can be said truly to have a home and family. Amitabha-reciters are family, and a very intimate one at that.










A dreamer who knows he is in a dream understands that the mountains, rivers and people in it are unreal. Therefore does not cling to that dream world. Yet, until the dream is over, he remains asleep, in a state dramatically different from wakefulness. The dreamer will not wake up by himself as long as the dream continues.

However, he could easily be awoken by a person who is awake.

It is not easy to wake up from the kalpas-long dream of life and death. We would never attain enlightenment until Amitabha comes to wake us up and help us to be reborn to the Pure Land.

Before rebirth in the Pure Land, any so-called “enlightenment” is a false awakening, only a dream within a dream.

Once we are delivered to the Pure Land, we wake ourselves from the kalpas-long dream of life and death and achieve Buddhahood naturally, bidding farewell to the dream world in the Three Realms once and for all.

Life is but a dream. All the nations, landscapes, flowers and plants, and all the people in the dream world are unreal.  Whether we are attached to them or not, they mean nothing to us as they are of no real benefit.  It is like counterfeit notes that are of no use, whether or not they are taken as authentic. The important thing is how to obtain authentic notes. Similarly, what really matters is how to wake up from our dream of life.

Namo Amitabha Buddha” is the voice that wakes us up, the calling from an awakened being; the Pure Land is the awakened being’s realm of reality, not a dream world.

Only an Amitabha-reciter delivered to the Land of Bliss is an enlightened person.









Public Resource

Amitabha Buddha is a public resource that allows us all an equal opportunity to realize our Buddhahood. The benefits involved are the same for everyone.

To me, whether we have any religious faith or not, and regardless of which religion we are practicing, we can still recite    Namo Amitabha Buddha and be reborn in the Pure Land. An individual’s personal lifestyle in this mundane world does not clash with Amitabha-recitation at all.

Someone may have religious reasons not to recite Amitabha’s name. It is his religious faith that repels Amitabha-recitation, rather than Amitabha Buddha rejecting his belief.

All religions in this world proclaim that their God is the only true God and what they advocate is the truth. This obviously cannot be true. Some religious fanatics even wage wars in order to stand up for what they believe in. However, all religions have their fervent followers, and we mustn’t allege that religious leaders deceive their followers deliberately by lying, nor take religious transcendence as being fabricated and false.

Such contradictory beliefs can only be explained by the Buddha Dharma: Everything is created by the mind.  So all Gods are right to their followers.

In a Buddha’s eyes, all sentient beings are equal. No one is more noble or more humble, wiser or less wise, or more capable or less capable of practicing the Dharma.

Amitabha Buddha transcends nations, states, religions, humankind, the Earth, and the ten directions.










The Power of Language

Language is not only the voice of our mind; it is also a messenger, a reflection, a hand and an extension of the mind, akin to a robotic arm.

When I need someone to bring me a glass of water, I have to voice my need so that someone can assist me. If I do not speak up, the glass of water will not appear before me.

If what we say is heard by hundreds of millions of people, our mind extends that many “hands” into the world. Bright, affirming messages generate beneficial momentum in society; they instantly magnify our collective positive energy by tens of millions of times. But malicious, nasty words inevitably produce dark energies, making our hearts gloomy and dispirited. If a negative remark is heard by ten thousand people, the speaker accumulates negative karma in equal measure.

In order to take care of my fragile heart, I shall refrain from speaking words of sorrow. No matter how heartbroken and mournful I feel, I will simply bite my tongue and say, “Okay, everything will be fine.” When we speak in an agreeable, loving way, we have the power to transform a terrible situation into a favorable one — even to make what was dead come alive! If one is embraced with loving words when he is dying, his heart and soul ascend to heaven on the wings of these words. This is how powerful language is: It may send a person up to heaven or down to hell, depending on what is said. Hence, if we practice Amitabha-recitation, the name of the Buddha will deliver us to the Pure Land. 

Language is the vehicle for the mind and heart. The nature of our words determine the characteristics of our destination.

Please remember never to speak words of resentment. They only bring us down. Let us use only positive, encouraging, grateful words so that our good fortune will know no limit.

Perhaps it is more important to say the right things than to do the right things.


















The Secrets of Others

It’s better not to know the secrets of others, lest we cannot digest them. Such knowledge may cast shadows in our hearts, and we may come to see the other person as strange. Because of a moment of trust, sentimentality or the need for release, a person may reveal to us the secrets deep in his heart. But as time passes and circumstances change, he may regret doing so, as he was nakedly exposed to others. He will thus live in disgrace and unbearable awkwardness.

For the sake of harmonious relations and long-term amity, even if someone is willing to let me know his secret, I shall deflect the topic tactfully so that we may not burden each other.

If by chance I overhear the secret of another, I must:

1. Keep that secret strictly confidential and never disclose it to anyone else as long as I live; 

2. Forget the secret completely. When I see the person again, I shall act in total ignorance of the secret, as if I never heard it;

3. Put myself in his position and feel deep shame and remorse, realizing that I have committed the same deeds he did. My faults are even more substantial and serious than his. I should never have arrogant thoughts or think that I occupy the moral high ground.

Only those who are profoundly humble, compassionate, wise and patient can take in and digest others’ secrets — for those secrets have the power to inflict intense and unremitting suffering on both sides.

We are all ordinary beings, not Amitabha Buddha. We have not the tolerance nor appetite to take in and digest the secrets of sentient beings, so it’s best not to handle them. Anyone who thinks he has the tolerance and appetite to do so is simply boasting.

One may say, “I believe profoundly in the iniquitous nature of sentient beings, and there is nothing new under the sun. We have all committed myriad offenses and wrongdoings from beginningless time; so how can there be secrets between us? It makes no difference if we confide in each other.” If this is true, why does he thirst for others’ secrets as if he were a tabloid journalist? Once he has heard the secrets, can he really claim that they have left no traces or impressions in his mind?

Someone may claim, “I just want to know about the other’s inclinations and capabilities. I let him vent his secrets so he could more easily repent to the Buddhas and acquire deep faith about the iniquitous nature of sentient beings.” In that case, we should leave the others’ secrets with Amitabha. We must not haughtily pose as a Buddha and hear secrets that only a Buddha should hear.

We should not inquire about, passively overhear, or actively listen to the telling of others’ secrets.

We should not encourage or induce  anyone to tell his or her secret.

We should use expedient means to guide the other person to tell his/her secret to Amitabha Buddha.

Actually, I am worried about listening to others’ secrets, for every single secret is like a heavy cross to bear. I find it burdensome to carry my own cross. What strength do I have to shoulder anyone else’s? Poor me, and poor us – all little sentient beings. We can only rely on Amitabha to bear such burdens.

When a sentient being recounts her secrets to Amitabha, even Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta will discreetly step away so that she may have a one-on-one private talk with the Buddha. She can then open the floodgate of her innermost secrets without any interference, and receive the infinite love of Amitabha. How can we have a hand in this?

Think of this in terms of the delivery of sealed letters by a mailman. He must never open and read any of the letters. When we expound the Dharma teachings to others, we should merely direct them to reveal their secrets to Amitabha. Only the Buddha may unseal and read the secrets of sentient beings. We have neither the right nor the ability to do so.





Can We Offend Amitabha?

The sun does not haggle with grass. Why would Amitabha Buddha ever mind the doings of sentient beings? Bathed in his compassionate light, we can be ourselves and grow. Let’s not make a fuss, worry too much, or fret easily about breaking rules or displeasing Amitabha.

Grass can never upset the sun, nor can sentient beings annoy Amitabha Buddha.

Amitabha is a Buddha we can never offend, as are all the Buddhas in their compassion.








To Be a Nobody

We should have boundless resolve, but conduct ourselves as nobodies.

The greater the resolve, the better. It should extend throughout space and cover the Dharma realm. In conducting ourselves, we should be as small as possible, inconspicuous, invisible – a nobody.

A nobody cannot be haughty. He isn’t qualified, nor does he even think about it.

A nobody would not feel inferior either, as she willing chose her own status. Others may think a nobody entirely inconsequential. But to her, the diminished self is just perfect. In most cases, a sense of inferiority arises from the desire to become a somebody. Without this ambition, no one would feel inferior. Putting small shoes on big feet causes pain, but the same shoes provide comfort to small feet. A nobody sits on a chair that belongs to him; it feels just right.

A nobody cannot be lazy. She must work hard. She must serve others.

A nobody can be immediately summoned – and dismissed. He poses no threat to others, and does not retaliate when beaten or answer back when slandered.  She goes without sound and stays unnoticed. Nobody knows when he was born or dies. What a wonderful notion! As it skims the water’s surface, even the wind will spark ripples. But a nobody passes through this world without stirring a single speck of dust or drawing anyone’s attention. He has been and lived in this world, but it’s as though he’d never come or been born. How much better than to be a somebody who, whirlwind-like, sweeps up sand and stones, scaring birds and beasts alike!






Doing Good Secretly

Seeds, whether those of crops or weeds, must be buried in the soil and mixed with it in order to grow and sprout. In the dark earth, away from sunshine, birds, humans and the wind, the seeds secretly do their work – absorbing water, collecting warmth, growing roots and sprouting. As the roots become deeply embedded in the earth, the sprouts extend upward. They eventually pierce the ground and bend towards the sun, the starry sky and the universe, saying: “I am here!” This is reminiscent of the infant Buddha’s famous declaration that “In heaven above and on earth below, I alone am the World-Honored One!” At this moment the seed can be considered “fully grown.” It has accomplished its mission. The plant now enjoys the gentle caresses of breezes, the dulcet melody of birds, the smiles of twinkling stars, and the care of genial sunshine.

If the seed had been exposed to the sun from the start, it would have failed to germinate.

If something is to succeed, preparations and operations in the initial stage must be carried out secretly, discreetly. Evil-doers know this well, so their negative deeds seldom fail. But those who do good often ignore the notion, hence their actions are frequently aborted.

Extra prudence is required to fulfill  virtuous deeds or charitable works. They are more likely to succeed when confidentiality is taken seriously.










Time Is Like a Water Pipe

The year-end often sees people sighing over the fleeting nature of life. Sayings such as these are heard at that time: “Swift fly the years, how time flies”; “Another year has just flashed past”; “Oh frailty, thy name is old age”... But impermanence does not just make an occasional appearance at the end of the year. It is by our side every day, every hour, every minute, and every second. It follows us everywhere – as we walk along on the street, cook in the kitchen, and lie down in bed. However, we are habitually oblivious to it, and too busy to pay it attention.

I have long since stopped lamenting the impermanence of things in this way. Those who do so are probably perturbed by how quickly time goes by and how short life is. They wish to live long. To me, having a long or short life makes no difference. Last year and the year before last only differ in terms of numerals. (Only just now Master Zongdao pointed out that I have mistakenly recorded events that took place in 2012 as 2013.) Even yesterday and my childhood days are almost the same: both have just slipped away. Perhaps it is my age – the folds and grooves in my memory have been smoothed out by the brain. Therefore, time is flat to me. It has no depth any more.

This reminds me of a mirror which reflects all three-dimensional views, both distant and near, as one flat surface. I like the character for “flat” (ping); it always denotes something agreeable to me. For example, equality (ping deng 平等), calm (ping jing平静), and gentle (ping he平和). In this sense, the value of being flat should probably exceed that of being three-dimensional.

My perception of time as being flat prompts me to consider this question: What is the essence of time? Is it simply the  chronological depth of the past, present and future? What is long-term and what is temporary? As the saying goes, “Bystanders see more than gamesters.” When we are totally absorbed in the game of time with a three-dimensional perspective (past, present and future), we are under its control. Imagine our life being cut into countless slices, then re-assembled into a whole, much in the same way as a book consists of numerous thin pages of paper. In contrast, time which has only a flat surface gives us a sense of the completeness of life. It allows us to become dispassionate onlookers of the game of time, watching the narrow tunnel of the past, present and future. What has this got to do with me? I am not inside it. I am merely having fun watching the transparent tunnel of the so-called past, present and future, with vehicles moving forward in it one after another. Such a game alone is enough to fill lives with suffering.

Consider the water in the ocean and that in a narrow pipe. They are both water. The ocean is free and vast, with rising and falling tides. Its surges know no barriers and impediments, while pipe water is reduced to a long and slim course by the narrowness of the tube, waiting in line to flow forward. Our minds are like water. Who has poured it into the narrow pipeline of time rendering it unable to overtake at all? What is this pipe-line made of? The “ego”!  

Some of us would like to see the pipeline of time in our worldly life extended as much as possible, say from 100 meters to 120 meters. There is really no point in this. What if it is 500 meters long? The end of a 500 meter-long pipeline is still buried underground, trapping our lives inside it throughout. We should break out of the tube’s confines and leave the pipeline. Even if we cannot join the ocean, we fare much better crouching inside a basin than getting squeezed in the pipe. In winter in north China, heating is supplied by hot water circulating through pipes. Our lives in the Six Realms of samsara (cycle of rebirth) are like the circulating water in the heating pipes. They are forever confined in dark conduits, propelled onward by karmic forces.

When the Buddha says, “ Time doesn’t exist,” people are flabbergasted and raise their eyebrows. “What? How is it possible that time doesn’t exist? Without time, how can we live?” Ha! How reasonable and logical such shocks and counter-arguments appear to be, except that they are just the reason and logic of humans. If the water in the ocean says to the tap water, “There is no pipe,” the latter is unable to understand. “Without pipes, we cannot live and everything will turn upside down. Imagine what a disaster  there would be if a pipe burst. That would be terrible!” But there again, is it natural for water to be inside a pipe?

Time does not exist for Amitabha Buddha. Hence, he has an infinite life. Only “I” have the concept of time, resulting in my ensnarement in samsara.








Just a Bit

A big shot, however great he may be, is just a bit great, and a small potato, however insignificant, is merely a little insignificant. A really important thing is only a tad important, while a really trivial matter is just a touch trivial.

This “little bit” is what we perceive as either great or small. Either way, it is just a bit greater or smaller. Remove that little bit and everything is equal.

When everyone goes around with “a bit” of something, the world bustles and turns restless. You have a little, I have a bit – and chaos reigns.

It is precisely over this “little bit” that people fight and compete with one another.

If we can erase the “little bit” from our minds, we will become Buddhas. If the bit is washed away, the world will transform into a Pure Land. It is not easy, though. We must obtain a special cleanser – Namo Amitabha Buddha.

Namo Amitabha Buddha is also just a bit. But please do not doubt its power.












Live Like a Backpacker

When we are travelling, we should take as little baggage as possible.

If we carry too many things, we will find that:

1. They are a burden. We have to move them up and down, here and there;

2. We lack freedom. We can’t go shopping, and we hesitate to visit the restroom or take a nap;

3. We have little peace of mind, as we constantly worry if they might get dropped, bumped, lost or stolen.

Life is like a journey. Wealth, love, marriage, family, career, fame, power and position, even the knowledge we have accumulated – all are just baggage. The less we have, the simpler and less onerous life becomes.

The rich should envy the poor, just as a person lugging a lot of suitcases envies the carefree backpacker.

Monastics are admired by others because they are poor and have little luggage. People who have taken vows are not worthy of respect if they have too much baggage in life.

Recite the name of Amitabha Buddha and be a backpacker in life, carrying only the six-character name as luggage. That is all you need, as it contains everything.

Leave all else behind. If you cannot do that, check it at Amitabha’s “Luggage Storage Office.”












Buddhas Aren’t Gods

Buddhas aren’t gods.

Humans cannot become deities, only make them.

We can’t create Buddhas, yet we are able to attain Buddhahood.

A Buddha derives from a human being, whereas gods are man-made.

The wisdom in the Buddhist teaching of the “co-dependent arising of things and their non-independent nature” negates all divine creators and lifts the mysterious veil of all religions.

Buddhism is not a religion, nor there anything mysterious about it.

It is not, however, against religions because people need them to live.

Buddhism does not reject religious sensibilities and even makes use of them to disseminate the Dharma. But the teachings of the Buddha are not themselves a religion. It’s like using a bottle to contain water, yet the bottle itself is not water.

There are religions on earth. Are there any in heaven?

As this world has religions, do other worlds necessarily have them? At least not in the Pure Land.







Being Safe

Safety is found within ourselves, not outside.

If we feel safe at heart, external storms will not affect us.

An inner sense of security is strong. It cannot be shaken by King Yama or removed by car accidents and the like.

Inner peace is fearless. When we are afraid, we fret over personal gains and losses, and serenity is elusive.

Safety is Namo Amitabha Buddha.







Good and Evil

We are all impaled by a wooden stake in the Three Domains of Samsara. The part of the stake that is in the ground is called “evil,” and the part above ground “good.”

Our life is like a road, and good and evil are the car. Unless the direction of our journey changes, the car, in good condition or not, will eventually reach the end of the road, where sits the bottomless pit of karmic rebirth in the Six Realms.

Good and evil are the driving wheels of our life, propelling us forward on the road to rebirth in the various realms. The sole difference between them is that one is in front and the other in the back. If we wish to exit this road of rebirths, simply applying the brakes on the front or rear wheels wouldn’t do. We must stop both sets of wheels, the good and the evil.

The workings of karma cannot halt our wrongdoing. They can only bind us to endless incarnation. Only the compassion of Amitabha Buddha can eradicate our transgressions and free us from the cycle of rebirth.

The reason Amitabha receives us in the Pure Land is to enable us to lead the life of a Buddha, not that of a human being. There is good and evil in human lives but not in a Buddha’s. Let us stop harping on what is good and what is evil.





Guests in the World

The home of an Amitabha-reciter is always the Land of Bliss, not this world. All his hopes, dreams, radiance and wealth are in the Pure Land, not here.  Because she is bathed in light from the Pure Land, she lives a happier life than others here. She is also more at ease, blessed, envied, admired, followed and imitated.

Reciters are merely tourists in this world and travel as guests. We are courteous to our hosts and have few possessions, taking none by force. We apologize for troubling our hosts and are grateful for their hospitality. We tread lightly and speak softly. We are respectful, content and easygoing. This keeps us safe during our sojourn and allows us to make positive karmic connections. We come, stay and leave without fanfare. If our host has shut his gates, the eaves of the house provide sufficient shelter from storms. We hold back any coughs, so as not to disturb those inside.

Guests who depart are remembered, cherished and even anticipated by the host. Those who stay behind are resented, expelled and badly treated. You can’t blame the host.







Limitless Light

Leaving home in winter, I have to take with me lots of clothes, a cotton quilt, cotton robe, cloak, sweaters, scarfs … I also pack a pair of cloth-bottom shoes, which are perfect for my feet in heated rooms in North China. There are just a few books in my luggage though. One of them is a Chinese translation of A Thousand Graces: Charles L. Freer’s 1910 Pilgrimage to the Longmen Buddhist Cave Temples. It contains many precious old pictures and the author’s writings in a special note-taking style. It takes us back a century, tracing Freer’s footsteps back to those bygone days. The destination of my present journey is also the great Vairocana Buddha of the Longmen Grottoes. It is obvious that the present sculpture has been meticulously restored. The old pictures show that the face of the Buddha’s statue had a noticeable long, deep crack, extending from the top left of the head to the chin, and the left nostril had fallen off. They were undoubtedly major face blemishes. But the statue we see today looks perfect and splendid. We should thank the experts involved for their protection and restoration of such cultural relics. May they be reborn in the Pure Land by the virtue of such merits.

Evidently, Freer was deeply moved by the great Vairocana statue. He wrote:

“He is not only huge in size, but also extremely appealing and compelling. Yet what exceeds the powerfulness is the projection of his compassion. Whatever it is, that appealing force constantly grows on each of my visits. Everyone of flesh and blood could feel his blessings and protection.”

Well said, Mr. Freer. Was he a Buddhist? It is not known. He was just a man of flesh and blood, a sentient being. All sentient beings are protected by the Buddha. He felt that, and said it. Everyone has Buddha-nature. We are all children of the Buddha, and are always blessed, protected and delivered by the Buddha. This is my interpretation.

For sure, the light of the Buddha is limitless, and permeates all times!

You Are So Bright

由澳返港,金色阳光照在拱型长廊,光影相间如同光的拱门,环环相连,直通远方,让人联想这是通往金色世界的光的通道。忍不住拍张照,竟引起两位外国年青人兴奋、和善、礼貌地打手势招呼,我也冲他们笑笑。过关时又遇到,先是男的和我交谈,接着女的也跟上,他们把我紧紧围住,简直要举起来,大大地夸奖、赞叹,那情形如同粉丝崇拜明星,几乎用上所有最好的赞语。我觉得纳闷:“至于吗?我有那么光彩照人、阳光灿烂、风采迷人?是不是老外的审美观有问题呀?”被一对素不相识、一面之缘的外国青年真诚赞叹,连向来脸皮厚的我也觉得腼腆、不自在起来,只能应付说:“Thank you”,哪里,过奖,抬举,而他们也异口同声、一再地说“really”。他们问我“是哪里人,佛教徒吧”,原来他们知道“佛”,一定是佛让他们如此,我当然是沾了佛光。这是一对巴黎青年,年龄约二十多岁,祝福他们。佛性是不分国籍的,他们赞我“so bright”。“bright”(光明)我很喜欢,我并没有光,如此赞语当然是献给佛的。


‘You Are So Bright

I was on my way back to Hong Kong from Macau. The sunshine glowed golden on the tube-shaped landing platform. Inside, light alternated with shadow as though many arched doors were linked together, leading into the distance. It reminded me of a luminous gateway to a golden world. I could not help taking pictures, which drew the attention of two young foreigners. Excited, they waved amicably and politely, as a gesture of greeting. I smiled back to them. When going through customs, I encountered them again. The young man first talked to me, followed by his companion. They surrounded me at close quarters, as though to lift me. They poured out compliments and extravagant words of praise, like fans adoring their idol. I was puzzled: “Really? Am I that radiant and charming? Perhaps foreigners have a different aesthetic standard.” I am usually thick-skinned. But this time, I felt bashful and a bit embarrassed at being commended by young strangers from a foreign country whom I had just met. I could only reply, “Thank you … You are too kind … I am flattered.” Yet they both repeated in almost one voice: "Really!" They asked me, “Where are you from? You must be a Buddhist.” So, they had heard of “Buddha,” and it must have been the Buddha who caused them to act like that. I only bathed in the Buddha’s light. The pair, from Paris, were in their twenties; bless them. Buddha-nature is not bound by nationality. “So bright,” the young Parisians praised me. I like “bright” but have no radiance myself. Such words of admiration could only have been offered to the Buddhas.

I wish I could have a chance to propagate the Dharma in France. I would look forward to it.








Listening to the Mind

The words of a happy child are pleasing, even if the usage is wrong. They delight the listener, who isn’t prepared to correct them. Remarks by an adult whose mind is troubled and stubborn are disagreeable, even though they are correct and sensible. Such comments invariably attract counter-arguments, spoken or unspoken, to the speaker's face or behind his back.

Those with an innocent, joyful mind say the right things – even if what they say is incorrect. Those with edgy and grasping minds make even the right things sound wrong.

Pure, happy thoughts gladden both their thinker and others, while vexation and worry cause us misery, and our negative emotions naturally affect others. Such situations are universal, as are the feelings evoked.

All humans in fact share a single mind. However, deluded thinking prompts us to carve this “great mind” into small pieces, distinguishing between yours and mine. The result is endless fighting. If we can put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to see the world through their eyes, all our minds will speak with the same voice. Originating  from the same source, they are closer than brothers. Think in terms of water with water, and emptiness within emptiness. They are one, not two. There is no yours or mine. If we take good care of this wholesome, absolute mind that belongs to everyone, we will be able to love all living beings.

Our minds are wise. They cut through what is said and care not to analyze the correctness of the words spoken. We listen directly to one another’s minds. How can we err if we listen to someone’s mind with our own? If our mind is troubled, no matter how right or reasonable our arguments are, the message we put across can only be wrong. That’s because we started off on the wrong foot. As the saying goes, “One careless move and the game is lost.” On the contrary, if we speak with a pure and untroubled mind, we cannot go wrong. When our mind, the origin of our thoughts, is right, it naturally leads us to the right path. “A single good move, and all is well.”

Better to have a pure and joyous mind than all the right words and arguments.





Escape in the Snow

Someone who is escaping in the snow can always be traced, as his pursuers can follow his footprints. But a new snowfall covers the prints. Delighted and safe, he thanks heaven on his knees.

We are fugitives in the Three Realms. Wherever we escape, King Yama will find us by tracking our karmic steps of greed, hatred and delusion. But Amitabha Buddha lovingly covers all our tracks with a whirling snowfall – his six-character name – so King Yama will never find us. How can we not kneel with joy to show gratitude for such grace?

Love can envelop everything. With his love Amitabha covers all our sins, enabling us to escape King Yama’s clutches.





Nip Hatred in the Bud, With Love

We should love those who hate us. That may not promptly cool their anger, but at least it keeps us from the flames of their fury. Love insulates us from anger and all manner of evil, and loving hearts are impervious to malice and other poisons.

If someone detests me and I hate him back, my heart has been set alight by his anger. My flames merge with his and both are consumed in a sea of fire.

Purely for self-protection, we should love, not hate, others.
























爱,永不吃亏,无本万利。  有爱,吃亏是大福;没爱,吃亏是吃亏。


Let’s Learn to Love

I feel deeply that sentient beings, myself included, are pitiful and ignorant. This is a defiled and utterly chaotic world. Living beings, in tens of billions, are bustling around like headless chickens, constantly on the go for nothing. They are all cooped up on this globe but, amazingly, are leading a passable life in general. We cannot  envisage what it would be like to have billions of vehicles on the roads without traffic police. I believe that, had it not been for the countless invisible divinities who lend us pathetic human beings their timely helping hands, our society would have long since collapsed. Can we imagine that seven billion humans, who are quarrelsome, wrathful, ignorant and arrogant, coexisting by themselves in peace? Let's be grateful to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, God, Allah, and the countless deities.

Let us love all others and love each other.

We have nothing to lose but everything to gain when we love others. The opposite is true when we simply love ourselves. Why don't we love other people?

There is much to learn about love.

We don't need to learn anything except love. Yet in reality, people teach and learn everything but love.

This is understandable because love is the Truth which is beyond comprehension by ordinary beings. Only beings coming from the Truth realm are capable of teaching love.

People take it for granted that they are born knowing how to love. Nothing can be further from the truth. What people are least capable of is loving.

If we are blamed, it doesn't matter.

If we are misunderstood, it doesn't matter.

If we are slandered, it doesn't matter.

If we are hurt, it doesn't matter.

Nothing really matters when there is love. It is human nature to blame, misunderstand, slander and hurt others. We all do that. One who treads on an anthill or pokes a wasp's nest is bound to get stung. Born as part of humanity, we cannot avoid hurting others or getting hurt.

We should learn to forgive those who have wronged us as they didn't know what they were doing. Likewise, we need others to forgive us.

We should not bear grudges. A grudge is like a poisonous wasp that stings. Forget about the enmity and let go of the wasp. Love others and the butterflies will dance around you and flowers bloom in joy.

Do not boast about good deeds which are not necessarily love. They can easily be the knife that inflicts injuries on others. Love is pure virtue but humans do not possess any virtue at all unless they act with unreserved love. So we must first learn to love. When there is love, there is goodness. Where can we find virtue without love?

We should forgive people who are hypocrites and vaunt their good deeds. Love them for what they are. Love is unconditional and non-discriminatory, otherwise it is not love at all.

Love never fails: wherever it is, whomever it is given to and under whatever circumstances. Love is a universal truth.

It is love, not food, that keeps us alive. If we only have food but not love, we will surely die and die a dog's death. However, with love we will be assured of eternal life even if we are starved to death.

I do not wish to make an enemy of a single soul and offend anyone in this world. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people whom I have upset, hurt and offended. I am really sorry. I have not yet mastered the knack of loving, so I must return to the Pure Land for more tuition and practice. Or I will regret it forever.

I must try to master the art of love, no matter how stupid I am.

Love warms the cockles of our hearts. We should warm ourselves first before warming others.

Love is the radiance in our hearts. It starts to light up the deepest part of our hearts and then illuminates the world outside.

Love never causes loss. It brings huge benefits with no cost. With love, suffering loss is a blessing in disguise. Without it, a loss is a loss.

Love is a multiplier of fortune: with great compassion we will be rewarded generously for a modest outlay, while with scanty love we can expect only a minor return even for a major investment.







Love Melts Everything

Ice remains ice even if it is chopped and sawn into pieces. It is freezing cold. However, the moment the sun is out, the ice will melt. It naturally turns into water, which spreads or flows gently.

To convince others through reasoning is like chopping an ice block with an axe. Our arguments may be flawless, and our advocacy may bowl them over and render them speechless. Still, we may not win them over. If we use love instead, it will be like the sun melting the ice. The other party will submit even in the absence of sound reasons.

To undertake self-power practices is no different from hacking ice blocks with an axe. We may have studied numerous Dharma principles and be able to analyze and expound them eloquently. Even so, we are still ordinary beings. When we rely on the other-power of Amitabha-recitation, it is like the sun melting ice and turning it into water. Without our even noticing it, the ordinary is transformed into the sacred.

To give someone warmth is better than to strike him. To love a person is better than to argue with her. To recite the name of Amitabha Buddha is better than self-cultivation practices.

Those with superior learning capabilities can be taught with wisdom, but those with lesser ability can only be transformed through compassion. Where instruction fails, compassion comes in. This is what we call “to enlighten.”









Problems: To Solve or to Cancel?

It is better to cancel problems than solve them.

If something is considered a problem – “This person is no good and I must teach him a lesson,” or  “This matter is disappointing and I shall make some changes” – then a problem arises, hence the need to solve it. In other words, we first create problems out of nothing, then seek solutions to them.

Or we can take a different perspective: “This person is imperfect, but that’s just how he is. This is a conclusion, not a problem; there is no problem at all. Is there a problem with a piece of paper, a tree, a stone, a cloud? These things exist as they are. Is that a problem?” When we remove our problem-focused “glasses,” the world of itself is free of problems. Those that arise are beyond the abilities of ordinary beings like ourselves to resolve anyway. Isn’t that why Shakyamuni Buddha came to our Saha world, and Amitabha Buddha attained Buddhahood? Since the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will handle the problems, we have none ourselves.

A so-called problem will be canceled if, instead of considering a person or situation no good, we believe that all things are just right for their purpose, the result of karmic workings that we should accept. When these aren’t considered problems, they will naturally and appropriately transform according to karma. This is the time-honored notion of “management through inaction,” or letting things take their course.

How can problems be canceled? Through love alone!

Love means we do not focus on others’ problems. Love is only love, and sees just love – not problems. It’s like light, in whose presence darkness is invisible.  Love envelops problems and cancels them. Where there is love, there are no problems.

How can we generate love? Only by having faith in Amitabha’s deliverance and accepting it!





Dark Night

In the silent wilds of the mountains, where there is a light from a window, there is vitality, even if the place is surrounded by abandoned graves.

In our benighted world, if someone recites Namo Amitabha Buddha, the lamp in her heart lights up and glistens through its own window.

Amitabha says, “A living being is there. I shall go see her, fortify her and safeguard her until daybreak.”



Safe and Sound

Relying on Amitabha Buddha is safer and more secure than a large rock sitting on the ground. Nothing can go wrong. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, cannot leap out of the Buddha’s palm. The six-character name is like the earth, and we are like small ants living on it. Wherever we go, we are still on the earth.









The Six-Character Name and Our Internal Organs

An Amitabha-reciter takes the six-character name as his heart. It pumps the blood of Amitabha Buddha’s compassion throughout his body.

The name is also his liver. It cleanses the three poisons of greed, anger and delusion, however intense they may be.

A reciter considers the six-character name her gall bladder. It renders her unafraid of the envoys of King Yama who come to take our souls.

The name is her lungs. It allows he to breathe the pristine air of the Land of Bliss while still in our Saha world.

A reciter takes the six-character name as his stomach. It digests all vexations and nurtures his meritorious Dharma body.

The six characters renew all our internal organs, so we achieve the Dharma body even before we takes leave of our physical body.

Amitabha lives in our bodies and grows from our hearts. Like a wax seal on ink paste, the text is formed after the seal is broken. In this lifetime, non-retrogression is achieved and rebirth assured.













Dialogue of the Deaf

“Believers will always believe, and non-believers will never believe.” The stronger our faith in the deliverance of Amitabha Buddha and the greater our efforts to propagate it, the more profoundly we will experience the truth of this old saying.

When a tiger sees a cow eating grass, it still does not believe. “How can that cow fill its hunger by eating such trifles? How can any animal survive without eating meat?”

When the cow spots fish in the water, it becomes skeptical. “How can they stay in the water all day?” But when fish see the cow, they are also confused. “It’s all right to jump out of the water occasionally, but how can this cow stand on land all day? How does it survive?”

Adherents of the Lesser Vehicle say, “The Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) wasn’t the Buddha’s teaching.” Followers of the Sacred Path say, “The Dharma is about self-cultivation; it doesn’t focus only on faith, like other religions.” Practitioners of Pure Land Buddhism’s Path of Importance insist, “Amitabha’s deliverance is conditional.” And we believe that the deliverance of Amitabha is at his initiative, on a basis of equality, and unconditional.

Should we debate this? It would be like a dialogue of the deaf.

The Buddha said that beings have disparate characteristics and inclinations. So he taught the Dharma accordingly.

So it’s back to “believers will always believe, and non-believers will never believe.”

Amitabha’s deliverance is the loftiest, ultimate and all-inclusive Dharma path. It cannot be understood; we can only have faith in it!

Faith is a certain wavelength of the spirit. Whatever you believe is the wavelength you are attuned to.

Some people believe only other religions, not Buddhism. Others accept just the Lesser Vehicle, not the Greater Vehicle. Still others have faith solely in the schools of the Sacred Path, not Pure Land. And some believe only in wrongdoing and blessings, doubting Buddha-wisdom. 

Those who have full faith in Buddha-wisdom and recite Amitabha’s name exclusively are naturally able to understand thoroughly and posit the Lesser Vehicle, the Sacred Path, wrongdoing and blessings, and the dedication of merit from worldly good deeds.





Country Bumpkin

Someone who has long lived in the countryside feels intimate with every tree and bush in his village. He clearly remembers them and seldom gets lost in the vicinity. Everything is so familiar.

One time he was in a big, unfamiliar city. Unable to tell directions, he felt dizzy, his head swollen. Nor could he remember the roads. There was no sense of intimacy. As a newcomer, he was totally out of his depth.

Our deluded, jumbled thoughts are the “countryside” home we have inhabited for countless kalpas. Our thoughts seem novel, and we feel in control and at ease. But when we start to recite Amitabha’s name, it is as though we have entered a metropolis and cannot tell north from south or east from west. Our mind loses its anchor and becomes unsettled. As we recite, our thought  wanders off and gets lost, not knowing where it is. That’s because we, as beginners, are not sufficiently familiar with the name of Amitabha Buddha.









How to Recite Amitabha’s Name

People often ask: How should I recite Amitabha Buddha’s name? There are many teachings on recitation methods. In fact, these are unnecessary, and they complicate a simple issue. Name-recitation cannot be more straight-forward. It is like calling people’s names. Tom is called Tom, and Tim is called Tim. No one can fail to understand. Why does anyone need to ask about recitation methods? In short, it’s because we consider Amitabha too impersonal, unfamiliar and distant. There is no sense of intimacy, as though he were a stranger. We also tend to think he is exalted and otherworldly, or has many peculiar, stringent requirements. We assume we cannot afford to displease him, break his taboos, or commit unclean acts. Such concerns prompt ordinary beings like ourselves to ask how we should recite his name.

However, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna explained the matter long ago as “invokes me, recites my name.” Master Shandao consistently interprets it as “recites my name.” These statements are clear and definite, without ambiguity or vagueness.

In this world, if a person loses consciousness or falls into a dead faint, others will cry out his name and try to awaken him, perhaps even shout it at the top of their voices. If a loved one falls prey to amnesia, or becomes mentally ill, and fails to recognize anyone, we will call out her name emotionally. To highlight their authority, some dignitaries forbid people to speak their names freely. The names of respected elders may also be taboo as a token of respect. In such cases, we should consider how to state their names. But with normal people, we always say their names directly.

All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have the six special powers and the illuminating wisdom of perfect brightness. They are not like the unconscious or mentally ill person, the amnesiac, or a luminary who wants to show his authority. Despite their supreme and genuine virtues, there is no disrespect in stating their names directly. When we recite a Buddha’s name, we only need to know which Buddha and speak his name clearly.

Once we recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” in this way, he immediately hears us and manifests before us. He responds instantaneously, the way clear water reflects the moon.

Many grannies in  villages pass away in a very smooth, easy manner while reciting Amitabha’s name, probably because they have few concerns about how to do so. They do it day after day, like calling on a close friend. By contrast, some monastics who practice diligently may be no match for the old ladies in their final moments, for they remain anxious about their recitation methods and practice in vain  all their lives.  They lack intimacy with Amitabha.

We should call the name of Amitabha directly and feel intimate with him. This is Amitabha-recitation. Or we may recite without a feeling of closeness. That is also Amitabha-recitation. Anyone who knows how to call out to others is capable of Amitabha-recitation. How hard can that be?








Accidental Call

I answered an incoming call: “Hey, what’s up?”

“I wasn’t calling you!”

“But my phone shows your number calling.”

 “Oh! My phone was in my pocket. Perhaps I just pressed a key by accident.”

He accidentally dialed me because his phone was in his pocket. He had unknowingly, unintentionally, tapped the key to my number, and his phone immediately got through and he received my answer.

A single thoughtless, and unmeant, recitation of Namo Amitabha Buddha taps that key in our heart dedicated to Amitabha. How could he not appear before us to give a response?










Entrusting Our Lives to Amitabha

Amitabha Buddha’s supremely compassionate summons is for us to entrust our lives to him. It is also a solemn instruction.

Amitabha intends fully to saturate our lives and replace them with his own life, so he asks us to entrust ourselves to him. It’s like an ocean calling out to drops of water.  When a tiny drop merges into the ocean, it is immediately suffused with all oceanic life. As we ordinary beings entrust our lives to Amitabha, our hearts are promptly immersed in his life, which covers the entire Dharma realm.

We know from the wording alone – “entrust our lives” – that we can gain Buddhahood simply by reciting Namo Amitabha Buddha. No more doctrinal proof is needed. So long as we entrust ourselves to Amitabha and become one with him, how can we fail to achieve Buddhahood?

Amitabha wishes thoroughly to change our fate, which is samsaric, distorted, defiled and impure.  So he calls upon us to entrust our lives. This can be compared to the maintenance of vehicles. One must drive his car into the garage for upkeep.  Amitabha does not apply other methods or materials to refurbish us. He uses his own self to fulfill and replace us – his pure and enlightened Buddha body.

 “Entrusting my life” means that I abandon my ego and put “myself” into the hands of Amitabha for disposal as he sees fit. It means that my ego dies and the Buddha lives. Only when the ego is dead can space be vacated for Amitabha to come alive in the domain that belonged to me.

But the ego is cunning indeed. When I say “I entrust my life” and surrender myself to Amitabha, my ego easily finds a substitute – virtue and meritorious deeds – and sneaks back stealthily. My ego is fully aware that it will die in the hands of Amitabha, so it disguises itself and produces specious arguments to make use of goodness and merit to evade its destiny. The ploy always works and the ego muddles through every time. Some Buddhists vow daily, even all life long, to entrust themselves, but never really do.

We each entrust our lives to Amitabha one time. Once we do so, entrustment is accomplished and lasts forever. We must entrust entirety, not a fraction of our lives. And it must be done by “me,” in person; there is no substitute. Since nothing in this world is more precious than life, no virtue or meritorious deed can surpass the entrusting of lives. I may have no shred of virtue, but if I entrust myself to Amitabha Buddha, I acquire everything he possesses. A person’s positive actions, however great, can never be sufficient if he does not entrust his life to Amitabha.

All of Dharma learning and practice is no more than entrusting our lives to Amitabha.























Repentance or Regret?

Repentance and regret are quite different in terms of their significance and function, even though both involve an element of feeling sorry for wrongdoing. Ignorance of the difference may cause us to repent in speech but in fact regret at heart, something quite harmful to our mind and body.

To repent is to sincerely reveal and confess our wrongdoings in front of those we honor such as Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Three Gems, deities in heaven and on earth, parents, learned masters and teachers. We beg for purification, salvation, comfort, forgiveness, and blessings, vowing to reform ourselves, turn over a new leaf, and move on with renewed courage and power.

To regret, however, is basically to mutter, lament and worry about our faults. Even if we tell others about those flaws, they have no power to purify and deliver us.

Repentance opens up our heart while regret shuts it with the offenses inside.

Repentance is a way out whereas regret is a blind alley.

When we repent, we lay down the burden of our wrongdoing, and start afresh without feeling weighed down. When we regret our evildoings, we still carry their weight, which bogs us down in the mire of bad karma, and we are unable to extricate ourselves from it.

Repentance purifies us while regret defiles us further.

Repentance eliminates our karmic obstructions, but regret ensnares us more tightly in the karmic trap.

Repentance is uplifting while regret is depressing.

When a person repents, he looks forward and is given a new life. When a person regrets, he remains immersed in the past and easily slips back into his former vice.

Repentance helps to generate new tissue from the inside. Regret reopens old wounds.

Repentance is an important Buddhist practice, but regret is merely a commonplace negative emotion among humans.

For the same mistake and with a similar sense of remorse, we are raised to a higher plane of existence by the former but dragged down to lower realms by the latter. The fundamental reason is the different honored ones before whom we repent and the difference in value orientation between the two approaches. Hence, there is a big distinction in the result.

The more esteemed the being before whom we repent, the more powerful and noticeable the effect will be.

The most sublime being before whom we can repent is Amitabha Buddha and the supreme repentance method is to recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” The Contemplation Sutra makes it clear that a single recitation is enough to eradicate eight billion kalpas of our grave karmic offences. It also enables us to gain rebirth in the Pure Land, a Realm of Rewards, transcending all stages of Bodhisattva practice.

Namo Amitabha Buddha” is absolute reality. Therefore, to recite Amitabha’s name is to repent at the level of absolute reality. Repenting at this level is like seeing the rising sun, which instantaneously eliminates all darkness: all our grave defilements are eradicated completely. Other methods of penitence practiced by ordinary beings can only expunge minor karmic obstructions. They are also restricted by time, place and other conditions, so they are much inferior to the method of name-recitation.

Master Shandao says, “To recite [Amitabha’s name] regularly is to repent frequently.”

The Contemplation Sutra is also named the Purification and Elimination of Karmic Hindrances and Attaining Rebirth in the Presence of the Buddhas.

When we are aggrieved, traumatized and feel contrite, we yearn to have someone listen to us and comfort us. It is, however, important that we find the appropriate being: someone who has the power and compassion to purify and soothe our hearts. If not, we had better keep things to ourselves since our confession will hurt the listener, who is also an ordinary being burdened with trauma and contrition, and who is equally thirsty for peace of mind. We will end up hurting ourselves more and causing harm to others through a chain reaction.

There is no vice which is too much for Amitabha Buddha to stomach. We may pour out to him our innermost thoughts, grief, unspoken sorrows and worries, and uncontrollable contrition and afflictions.

Namo Amitabha Buddha. May we all have peace!





Pine Seeds and Pine Trees

A soaring pine tree with a strong, upright trunk and countless needles facing the wind, grew from a tiny pine seed. That seed, however, contains the entire template of the future tree, including its every branch, pine needle and inch of bark. But when we look at the seed, the template is not visible; it will only manifest when the proper conditions appear.

Likewise, if we single-mindedly entrust our lives to Amitabha Buddha and wish to be reborn in the Pure Land, that single-mindedness encompasses all the merits, virtues and adornments of the bodhi tree of enlightenment. Can you believe that? It is to take the enlightenment of the Buddha’s achievement ground as the essence of the practitioner’s causal ground. Ordinary beings cannot perceive this, however, and hence disbelieve that reciting Amitabha's name leads to Buddhahood.

If we think of Amitabha Buddha in our minds and verbally recite his name, we sow the seeds of Buddhahood in our lives. We will quite naturally become Buddhas through name-recitation, the way a pine seed grows into a pine tree.

























Everyone is looking for a life of freedom, a life of leisure and liberty, a life without hindrance and restraint. This is especially true of monastics. “With a bowl of alms received from a thousand homes, I roam alone for a million miles”; “I stand high on the mountaintop and stride along the deepest seabed”; “walking in a pair of straw shoes among the cloudy summits, I am a cloud-and-water monk who leads a cloud-and-water life”…. These verses must have aroused the aspiration of numerous monastics past and present.

Yet, what is freedom? How can we attain the state of a free mind? Without a correct understanding of this, one may end up failing, even if he starts out with good intentions.

Here are several points for   young monastics' reference:

1.   Freedom rests in our mind, not the external environment.

If we place the blame for a lack of freedom on the external environment and thus try to change the outside world, we will certainly meet a dead end. Then, like a person in shackles, we will move with the greatest difficulty as we drag around our impediments. Worst of all, we will be completely unaware that what we need to do is break the shackles. Instead, we could mistakenly believe that our small house is what inhibits our freedom. We will tote lumber, bricks and tiles in order to build a bigger house — but our shackles will only increase the difficulties of construction. Even if we manage to complete the house, do we really attain even a bit of additional freedom? Our mind can be compared to the shackles, and the environment to the house. It is our mindset that is our bondage; this is what shackles us and prevents us from finding true freedom. As for the environment, it is commodious indeed. We must break our mental shackles to pursue freedom.

2.   Freedom lies here, not anywhere else.

  Some people  moan about their employer, job, place of residence or spouse, and long to find one that is more desirable. Of course, the external environment influences our quality of life. But when we take things as they are, freedom lies right here. Those who cannot adapt to their surroundings and act fastidiously will always find it hard to attain freedom.

3.   Freedom exists in this present moment, not in the future.

Most of us always live with high hopes for the future: “I am not free at the moment, but the day will come when I will be free, either tomorrow or someday in the future. I will be free when I have enough money, have a house, have a car, have, have, have ...” Thus we live out our lives in a vicious cycle of endless expectations and endless disappointments.

This can be compared to a man with amnesia who, in his delusion, believes his feet are missing and rushes about to look for them. He is convinced that they’re only several steps ahead of him — around the next corner, perhaps. He runs about wildly, but try as he may he cannot find them. In fact, if he stops running and stands still, his feet are right there, firmly holding up his body. There is absolutely no point in scurrying around; how could he possibly find his feet that way?

4.   Freedom is already there; we needn’t search for it.

“Already there” means that it always exists. All we have to do is enjoy it, without imagining that it is our job to create it. Freedom permeates everything and everywhere; there is no need to go looking for it. It is just like sunyata (“emptiness” in Sanskrit). As the Chan case (koan) says: “Who binds you?” Since no one binds me, I must have been free from the beginning. Even so, we are all entangled in the net of ego, which means “grasping at self.” It is the ego that binds us. So long as the ego remains intact, we will not be free.

5.   Freedom is within the Buddhas, not in human beings.

A Buddha enjoys absolute freedom, but humans are not free at all. Yet there is no distinction between the nature of mind, the Buddha and sentient beings. When we hide our mind inside the Buddha’s, we are free and at ease. This is the only way for sentient beings to attain the ultimate freedom. Let us immediately recite Amitabha's name and aspire to rebirth in the Pure Land. If we rely on the power of Amitabha's vows and accept the world as it is, we enjoy the greatest freedom, and we are entirely free at all times and in all places.

  Some reciters  claim they have deep faith in the Pure Land teachings. But they keep complaining about their surroundings, casting about for some idealized, imaginary freedom. They are similar to one who holds a lit lantern but goes searching high and low for a source of light. I hope we will all go deeply into the Pure Land teachings. When we nourish our hearts with the Dharma, our mind is set free, and we can enjoy freedom fully.

Some additional reminders:

Be altruistic, not selfish, and you will attain freedom;

Be humble, not arrogant, and you will attain freedom;

Be philanthropic, not self-obsessed, and you will attain freedom;

Be genuine, not hypocritical, and you will attain freedom;

Be easygoing, not stubborn, and you will attain freedom;

Be responsible, not evasive, and you will attain freedom.






My Promise Doesn’t Count

Our fellow practitioners often ask me to give Dharma talks. Some even kneel before me, “forcing” the issue by refusing to get up. I would nod my consent, saying “Okay, okay!” Then I would add, “But my words may be the most unreliable promise under the sun.”

Why don’t my words count? Because I have no control. Whose words count? Those of nidana – the chain of causation.

It is nidana that determines all happenings in the world, not individual persons. Something promised today may be changed tomorrow. Unforeseen developments can arise suddenly. It’s not that the initial commitment was made too casually. We all need to get used to variability and accommodate ourselves to the workings of nidana. We should plan, by all means, but we ought also to bear in mind that planning cannot keep pace with change.

Though nothing is certain in this world, one fact remains absolutely unalterable. A promise has been made to all sentient beings, innumerable times, with each time counting. To rely on it alone is enough. The pledge: “All who recite    Namo Amitabha Buddha will be reborn in the Pure Land and attain Buddhahood!"







Everyone Has the Right to Acclaim Amitabha

All the teachings of the Pure Land path merely describe the unfathomable merit and virtues of Amitabha Buddha’s name.

The merits of Amitabha are available for anyone to commend. There are no special privileges, no restrictions. Nor are there any rules governing who is entitled to do so.

Acclaiming a Buddha is a heartfelt deed that cannot be done on behalf of someone else. Whoever receives the grace of a Buddha should offer praises personally.

Therefore every practitioner in the Pure Land school, and not only    monastics, is entitled to expound the Pure Land Dharma and praise Amitabha Buddha. The person should do so according to the way he or she experienced Amitabha’s deliverance.

The Amitabha Sutra says, “Just as I now commend the unfathomable power and virtue of Amitabha Buddha, Buddhas in the six directions, as numerous as grains of sand in the Ganges River, all extend their long, broad tongues speaking these words of truth: ‘Sentient beings should have faith in this sutra, acclaimed as containing unfathomable merit and supported by all the Buddhas’.” As Shakyamuni Buddha — and all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and generations of linage masters — acclaim such merits, we latter-day generations should have faith in their words and follow suit.













The Faith of a Lamp

A lamp may be in darkness, but its faith is luminous.

Someone said, “When the whole world is dark, what good will your little lamp do?”

“Is that so? Let me go and check.”

The lamp went out of the house and then returned, having traversed courtyards and mountains. It said, “I have seen mountains, trees, flowers, grass, insects, animals – everything but darkness. I called out to darkness and searched for it, but I couldn’t find it. I really have no idea of the darkness you spoke of.”

A closed box, though bathed in daylight, puts its faith in darkness.

Someone said, “The world, and everything in, is bright. Why do you cling to darkness?”

“Oh, what is brightness? Let me have a look.”

After a long journey by airplane and ship, the box came back and said, “It was dark wherever I went. I couldn’t see anything. There’s no brightness at all!”

Both the lamp and the box remained firm in their beliefs – and each confirmed its own conviction.

Although it illuminates all things, light cannot see darkness. And darkness can swallow everything except light.

We should be a lamp in darkness. Even if we cannot be one, we should hold a light in our hands.