Proper Faith, Proper Vows and Proper Practice
vows, and practice are the three prerequisites of the Pure Land
Dharma-door. One who goes on a journey takes along some food and a
little money. One who wishes to go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss needs
faith, vows, and the practice of holding the Buddha's name.
is the first prerequisite, for without it one will not have an affinity
with Amitabha Buddha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. You must have faith
in yourself, faith in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, as well as in cause
and effect, noumenon and phenomenon.
Reciting the Buddha's name is like making a phone call. If you don't make the call, then who's going to answer the phone?
does it mean to believe in oneself? It is to believe that you certainly
have the qualifications necessary to be born in the Land of Ultimate
Bliss. You should not take yourself lightly and say, "I have committed
so many offenses, I can't be born there." Suppose you have created
karma involving heavy offenses, well, now you have a good opportunity:
you can "take your karma with you into rebirth." That means that
regardless of the offenses you have committed in the past, you can
still be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, and that karma goes
along with you. However, you need to know that the karma you can take
is karma you have already created, not karma that you continue to
create. Karma you have already created is the karma from previous
lives. Karma you continue to create will ripen in the future. What you
can carry is offenses that come from karma created in the past; what
you cannot carry is offenses from karma you create now that will ripen
in the future. No matter what you have ever done, not withstanding any
kind of offenses, you can now change your faults and reform your
conduct, stopping evil and becoming wholesome. Then you can take those
previously-created offenses with you to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. But
continuing to create karma will keep you from being able to go.
you must have faith in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss which is
hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands from here. Before he
realized Buddhahood, Amitabha Buddha, as the Bhikshu Dharma Treasury,
vowed to create the Land of Ultimate Bliss where living beings of the
ten directions who vowed to be born there could gain rebirth by
reciting his name. There is no need to do anything else; it is easy,
simple, convenient, and interpenetrating -- yet it doesn't cost a thing
and doesn't waste energy. This Dharma-door can be considered the
highest and most supreme, for if you just recite, "Namo Amitabha
Buddha," you will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
also necessary to believe in cause and effect. Believing in cause is to
believe that in the past you have planted good roots that now enable
you to believe in this Dharma-door. Without good roots, no one can
encounter this Dharma-door of reciting the Buddha's name, or any other
Dharma-door, for that matter. Because of the good roots you planted in
the past, you can now encounter the Pure Land Dharma-door of faith,
vows, and holding the name. But if you don't continue to nourish the
good roots you planted, then you won't be able to reap the fruition of
Bodhi in the future. That is why you must believe in cause and effect;
believe that in the past you already planted causes for Bodhi and so in
the future you will certainly reap the fruition of Bodhi. The principle
is the same as planting a field: the seeds must be watered and
nourished before they can grow.
Finally, one must have
faith in phenomenon and noumenon. The specific phenomenon is this:
Amitabha Buddha has a great affinity with us and will certainly guide
us to Buddhahood. The noumenal principle is this: We know the great
affinity exists because without it we would not have met the Pure Land
Dharma-door. Amitabha Buddha is all living beings and all living beings
are Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha became Amitabha Buddha by reciting
the Buddha's name, and if we recite the Buddha's name, we, too, can
become Amitabha Buddha.
We should cultivate according to the phenomena and the noumenal principle. The Avatamsaka Sutra speaks of four Dharma Realms:
- The Dharma Realm of Unobstructed Phenomena
- The Dharma Realm of Unobstructed Noumena
- The Dharma Realm of Noumena and Phenomena Unobstructed
- The Dharma Realm of All Phenomena Unobstructed
the four Dharma Realms, and speaking from the standpoint of our
self-nature, we and Amitabha Buddha are united in one, and therefore we
have the qualifications to realize Buddhahood.
is the Amitabha Buddha within the minds of all living beings, and
living beings are the living beings within the mind of Amitabha Buddha.
Due to this interconnection, there are phenomena and the noumenon.
However, you must believe in this principle and energetically practice
it by reciting the Buddha's name; you cannot get lazy. Your recitation
of the Buddha's name should increase day by day, not decrease.
discussed faith, we will now discuss vows. What is a vow? When you want
something, when your thoughts tend toward a certain thing, your mind
has a wish, then you make a vow. In Buddhism there are four vast vows:
I vow to save the limitless living beings.
I vow to cut off the inexhaustible afflictions.
I vow to study the immeasurable Dharma-doors.
I vow to realize the supreme Buddha Way.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, present, and future practiced the
Bodhisattva conduct and attained Buddhahood by relying on these four
But in order to make vows you must have faith.
First, believe there is a Land of Ultimate Bliss; secondly, have faith
in Amitabha Buddha; thirdly, believe that you and Amitabha Buddha have
a great affinity, and that you can certainly be born in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss. With faith in these three things, you may then make the
vow, "I desire to be born in Amitabha's country." There is a saying,
"I want to be born in the Western Pure Land."
to be born there. Nobody's forcing me to go; nobody's dragging me
there. Although Amitabha Buddha has come to guide me, I'm going as a
volunteer because I want to be close to him. I want to be born in the
Land of Ultimate Bliss and to see Amitabha Buddha when my lotus flower
opens. I want to meet the Buddha and hear the Dharma." These are the
vows you need.
Then you must practice. How? Recite the
Buddha's name, saying "Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha..."
as if you were trying to save your head from the executioner, running
ahead to keep your head.
Faith, vows, and practice are the travel expenses for rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. They are your ticket.
p.215 - 217, "In Memory of the Ven. Master Hsuan Hua, Vol. III"