1. The true sense of “Purvapranidhana of Buddha recitation”
My salutation to you all, my brethrens. Master Gnose sent me his brethren’s question from Li Gung University, Nanjing like this: “There has recently been someone announcing that “Purvapranidhana of Buddha recitation” is not in accordance with the teachings in “The Three Sutras of the Pure Land Sect”. They said that people do not need to believe, to take vows, and to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha, but they can all be reborn in the Pure Land”. Many of brethrens who haven’t grasped the doctrine of the Pure Land Sect become puzzled on hearing, so please mercifully explain it, My Dharmabhànaka”.
This is authentically a serious and important matter because if someone who misinterprets this issue may lead his listeners to mistaking their way and missing the opportunity of Buddha recitation to be born in the Pure Land right in this life. Those who spread these words must themselves take the responsibility for causality. It is said in sutra that person will surely fall down to Avici hell! The phrase of “Purvapranidhana of Buddha recitation” has no false meaning, but they have completely misinterpreted it. Before entering Nirvana, the Buddha knew our present social situation so well, very well. In the chapter Visuddhi Màrga of Suramgama Sùtra, the Buddha said “Erroneous masters are numberless as Ganges sands”. The words mentioned our present time – a “feeble Dharma – vigorous Mara” time, in which sattvas agree to false things and disagree to truths; listen to cheat and deny advice!
Those who are Pure Land sect brethrens must follow the Buddha, who endures waiting for us. As far as I’m concerned, many of us are much more enduring than the Buddha, they are impatient to lead all sattvas to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. But they must turn around and wonder themselves whether they can go to the Pure Land. They are not able to save themselves, so how can they help the others! It is said in sutras that “it’s out of reality”. We’ve heard this saying so usually that it can be memorized. “The Buddha couldn’t save those who did not have causal connection” should be understood that they don’t have immediate causal connection with the Buddha. Its meaning is that they don’t believe in the Buddha. No believing in the teachings from the Three Pure Land Sutras, they can’t practice the Dharma. Furthermore, they believe in such rumours, which means that they have no pratyaya with the Buddha, and that they can’t surely get achieved in these lives.
2. What is Purvapranidhana?
a. So, what is Purvapranidhana finally?
Purvapranidhana is 48 vows. After the establishment of the Pure Land Sect, we have recited the name of the Buddha according to “Purvapranidhana”. Let’s see our daily Pure Land recitation sessions: we recite the 48 vows in the morning time, confession and forgiveness of Karmàvarana in evening time. If we don’t make repentance for the past karma, we can’t absolutely be born in the Pure Land of Amitàbha Buddha. Although this Dharmaparyàya says, “births with karma in the Pure Land”, our great virtuous Patriarchs taught: “Taking only the old Karma, not the newly-made ones”. You can’t take the karma that you’re creating at present. “Take” means “carry”, “transport”. Those mistakes you made in the past are not a trouble, because you can correct them today. The saying “Don’t examine the past, just consider the present behavior” is the rule and principle of births with karma in the Pure Land. If you keep creating karma, you can’t definitely be born in the Pure Land. This principle must be comprehended.
Someone says that Purvapranidhana is the 18th vow, but most of people can’t grasp this meaning. The 18th vow includes the 47 others perfectly and completely. If it’s short of 1 in those 47 vows, the 18th can never be completely perfect. Would the “great master” who spread the “Purvapranidhana of Buddha recitation” understand this morality?
Any of the 48 vows also includes 47 other ones wholly and perfectly. Any vow does. Even though we haven’t finished preaching the Hua Yen King, everyone listened to this Sutra much. In the statement “One means many and many means one” in Hua Yen King means “one and many are not two”! Would that master understand the truth “One means all and all means one”? Purvapranidhana of Buddha recitation is “one means all”, so the merit of Purvapranidhana is very surpassing and absolute. It is impossibly said “just the 18th vow is necessary, there is no need of the 47 other ones”. If the 47 other vows are not done, the 18th one can’t also be done. So, what is the 18th vow? It’s the general credol of 47 others. Therefore, this interpretation is made by Màra, not by Buddha.
Before entering Nirvana, Buddha set forth “The Four Dharmas on which Buddhists rely”. The first is “the Truth is eternal rather than Man”. What is Dharma? It’s the sùtra-pikata. The Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra is the first sutra of the Pure Land Sect. In Dong Jin dynasty, Hui Yuan the great master set up the first bodhimandala in Lushan – Dong Lin Buddha recitation Hall, where there were 123 brethrens who had the same sense of purpose and màrga – citta. At that time in Pure Land Sect, there existed only Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra. Other sutras hadn’t been interpreted yet then. People in Lushan practised this sutra and all of them would be born in the Western Land firmly and properly. This bodhimandala was very surpassing and solemn. We must follow predecessors and inherit their cause.
Dharma Master Yin Guang, who had lived in late Qing Chao times – early Minguo times, was very famous. He was a Nirmana-kaya of Sukhàvati Mahàsthàma Bodhisattva. We haven’t got the chance to meet him, but his teaching has been preserved for posterity in this world, we should read and recite them carefully and thoroughly, and practise liturgically. The way we are nowadays following is the heritage from Master Yin Guang. My master is kulapati Li Ping Nan, who is one of the great master Yin Guang’s disciples. My master had followed the great master’s teaching all his life. I got close to learn from Li master for ten years. But he didn’t dare to undertake the role of a teacher, so he introduced me to another master. Who was the teacher? That was Li’s master, the great master Yin Guang. Upon this fact, we may know Li master had virtues, knowledge, and extreme modesty! He trained me to resolve reading the teaching and practicing liturgically. If so, I could deserve to be one of the great master Yin Guang’s disciples.
I have an advice that brethrens all over should follow the Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra and become one of Amitabha Buddha’s disciples straghtforwardly, shortly and properly. Old layman Xia Lin Zhu collected the Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra. He was either the metamorphosic body of Amitabha Buddha or that of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. If not, he couldn’t have collected the sutra so perfectly. We know that Sir Wang Lung Shu had first collected it in the time of Song Zhao and Sir Wei Mo Shen secondly collected in the time of Qing Chao, but the two collections were not perfect. The Pascimadharma indeed required the collection of this sutra, so it moved the Buddha or the Bodhisattva to manifest. Maybe you don’t believe, but I do; and those who believe can have benefit. We learn that lots of practitioners of this sutra went to the Pure Land with good signs at the end of human life in recent years, and more of the like cases have been heard of. If you don’t believe in this but rely on other rumours, I really have no way to give advice.
Nowadays, in this era of democracy and opening, everyone does have the right to intervene in others’ affair, so we must ourselves review whether our pratyaya with the Amitabha Buddha is deep or shallow. When we read Xia Lin Zhu’s collection, we need not to ask how he was, just need to consider whether his collection corresponds with the Dharma or not. We must build our belief from this point, which is not superstitious nor blind. I have printed 5 translations of the Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra and 4 other collected copies into one book and titled it with “Five Sole Original Pure Land Sutras”; and 2-3 myriad books have been published. You brethrens can read and compare, so that you can reinforce your faith by this way. Then you should observe how many people followed the “Purvapranidhana of Buddha recitation” and were born in the Pure Land and how many good signs they expressed at deaths.
b. If there is no taken vow while we’re reciting Buddha’s name, we cannot have births in the Pure Land.
The Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra has clearly stated that the basic condition of 3 levels of births in the Pure Land is “Bodhicitta generation, and one-pointed mind of recitation”. How are there births in the Pure Land without a taken vow? There is not such a truth! There’s an ancient saying: “If you recite 10,000 times of Buddha’s name per day without taking a vow, there’ll be no use shouting to the point of your broken throat”
Why so? Because you don’t want to go to be born in the Pure Land!
The resolution of going to the Pure Land is giving up all pratyaya, which also mean bodhimind generation.
In Essential Expounding, Great Master Gao Yi said: “If we want to go to the Pure Land with a higher grade, we must absolutely have minds similar to Buddha’s, vows similar to Buddha’s, and practice similar to Buddha’s”. If your mind is not like the Amitabha Buddha’s, your vows not like Amitabha Buddha’s, and your behavior not like Amitabha Buddha’s, even if you can go to the Pure Land, you must have a quite low grade. Much less you cannot go to the Pure Land! Must we all remember this carefully!
In the Amitàyurdhyàna-sùtra, Lady Vy De Hy inquired of Sàkyamuni Buddha for the future birth in the Pure Land:
“How must I cultivate the mind to be born in The World of Utmost Joy?”
Before explaining the entrance method to her, Sàkyamuni Buddha had made clear of “Good Karma and The Three Sources of Felicity”. This is the “true cause and good karma of the Buddhas of the past, present and future”. In other words, regardless of the Past Buddhas, the Present Buddhas, the Future Buddhas, or Buddhas-to-be, etc all have to rely on this base. Without this base, they can never have achievement no matter how hard they try. Just like house building, this is the foundation. The first two sentences in this foundation are: “Be pious to parents, and serving religious teachers”. All the people in the Pure Land are the most pious ones, the most excellent disciples. In the Sukhàvativyùha-sùtra, they are praised as “first-class disciples of Tathàgata”! So, there can’t be this matter of “no taken vow”? This is totally wrong! Those who have a little lucid mind can easily distinguish and realize it. If even this matter cannot be comprehended, our cultivation is good for nothing, our listening to sutra elucidation is also useless! “Good Karma and The Three Sources of Felicity” is the deeds - the behaviors of Buddhas, which are shown in everyday life. Three Sources of Felicity, Six Points of Unity, Three Studies, Six Pàramitàs, Ten Vows are Buddhas’ caryà. Have we done fine? I usually advise my brethrens that all their deeds, words and thoughts must be corresponding to these five heads. If there is a correspondence, their conducts are right deeds; if not, they are erronous. Never can an erronous deed lead you to the Pure Land!
Therefore, we have compiled five heads of Pure Land Sect into a small book called “Cultivation Principles”. These are principles that need carrying out in your lives, work, treatment, behaviors in daily life. It must be determined to be done. If you do in a wrong contrary, even if you take vows, you can never go beyond the cycle of death and birth. Why ‘s that? Your vows are false, blank and unreal. When we take vows to dedicate our merit, we have no merit to dedicate. A blank vow, a blank dedication is unacceptable. Only real dedication are significant. So, what is real? They’re realizing the paths and fruitions, cutting of evil and cultivating goodness,rejecting the ilusion of the transmigrational worlds and entering into nirvana-enlightenment. These are your real merits and achievements, which should be dedicated. If you don’t take vows nor recite the Buddha’s name, how can you enter the Pure Land?
c. In this era of Pascimadharma, “Heterodox masters are numberless as Ganges sands”.
“Brethrens from Pure Land sect raised lots of questions on hearing”. These people are so ignorant, dim-headed, and pitiful! Like few years ago, Chan Jian Min from the US announced all over the world that “those who take karma cannot enter the Pure Land”. This announcement made Buddhists in the world become wavered, and wondered. He’s màra, not a Buddha. Even kulapati Zhou Hsuan De got shaky. When I came to Los Angeles, he picked me up at the airport and asked: “Dharma master, it’s recently said that “those who take karma cannot enter the Pure Land”, and just “ending karma can help enter the Pure Land”. So, how must we do?”
Then I told him: “Not entering the Pure Land is O.K.!”
He became worried on hearing these words. I looked at him standing there paralyzingly and speechlessly. And I told him, “If karma isn’t taken, there would be the Amitabha Buddha alone in the Western Pure Land. Why must you come?
He seemed still unclear, and I added, “Avalokitesvara and Mahàsthàma are absolute universal enlightenment Bodhisattvas but still have an ignorant sense of appearance which has not been abolished. Is that karma taken?
Then he can get aware – that both Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Mahàsthàma one also took karma, only Amitabha Buddha did not.
“But there is no saying “take karma to the Pure Land” in the sutra”.
I responded: “Does it mention four worlds, three grades, and nine levels, doesn’t it?”
“If there were no taken karma, everyone would be equal, and there would be no “three grades and nine levels”, wouldn’t it?
This is what Buddha has taught us: “rely not on the words, but on the meaning”. Although he didn’t state: “take karma to the Pure Land” but mentioned three grades, four worlds, and nine levels. So the meaning of “take karma” was implied already. If you take much karma, your grade will be low, and if you take little karma, your grade will be high. There is untrue to take no karma!
Buddhists must open up their wisdom. Why is their faith easily shaky on hearing some sentences? Why is it so dim-minded and confused? You think that kind of person is pitiful, don’t you? Buddha’s name is recited all their lives, but they became faith-shaken on hearing rumors. How pitiful it is! Therefore, Buddha taught: “Rely upon the Dharma, and not upon men”, “Rely upon the meaning but not upon words”. Dharma is sùtra-pitaka; sùtra-pitaka of the Pure Land Sect is the five sutras, and one sastra. We must comprehend these teachings.
Therefore, is “Purvapranidhana of Buddha Recitation” wrong?
So, what is “Purvapranidhana”?
The five sutras and one sastra are pranihita, 48 vows are Purvapranidhana of Amitabha Buddha. It is impossible to draw out any of those vows. In case of drawing out any of them, and you understand “one is many”, one sentence includes five sutras and one sastra. If you have cultivated your mind to this point , you can have such that understanding. If not, just be obedient and truthful to go step by step, then you’ll succeed. If you misunderstand, misinterpret the meaning of “Purvapranidhana of Buddha Recitation”, all are màras. Màras are afraid that you can get achieved in this life so they quickly pulls you back and thrusts you down into Avici hell. This makes them pleased! That’s fine; I would like to stop my speech right here.
Dated 5 Jan 2000 at Singapore Pure Land Sect Baoshe Assembly
Speech by venerable master Jing Kong
Recorded and collected by Liu Ren, edited by Chuan Jing
Translated according to copy by Los Angeles Pure Land Sect Assembly, dated in March, 2001
English translator: Cát Phúc