top of page
  • Writer's pictureSFYAD

When the mind is pure, the pure land appears!

Pure Land practitioners often argue that Chan practitioners only know about their koan (公案) of "Who is reciting the Buddha's name", while Chan practitioners often argue that Pure Land practitioners do not know who's name to recite before Amitabha was known. The debate between these two schools led to disputes within Buddhism. Even till today, people are still picky over which method is the correct method, and reject the other method. This is disheartening to me, because if there are conflicts even within Buddhism itself, how can we even make the resolve to propagate Buddhism for the benefits of living beings? Because we do not understand the Dharma, we made many discrimination against different schools of practice.

We should know that, Pure Land and Chan only have a difference in names and terms. Why is it so? At the end, they bring us all to the same road, leading to the same result. The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng (六祖慧能) mentioned that "The Dharma is neither instantaneous nor gradual, but a man's awakening may be slow or quick". Do not say that reciting the Buddha's name won't give you the same effect that meditation gives you. If you go after "effects", you are have not understood meditation and Chan yet. You are still going after states brought up by meditation and Chan. They are false and illusory. It is the same for Pure Land. Going to Pure Land is only changing the environment of practice. You still have to practice, and listen to the Dharma when you are at Pure Land.

The Buddha has told us that all methods are good for practice. If you find one that suits you, practice it. But, you should never praise one method and reject others. It is only beginners who have many opinions about different practices. They divide the Dharma into different schools. They praise one and slander the other, damaging the Dharma and causing Buddhism to fall. However, experienced and experts have already understood or entered the Dharma door. They have understood that all the methods that the Buddha has taught, be it Chan or Pure Land, are expedient means. They have understood that the Dharma is beyond words, beyond various schools, beyond discrimination. Once enlightened, a single utterance of a word is too much to explain the Dharma. Not enlightened yet, 84,000 methods will still not explain the Dharma. It is like a room with many doors, and the doors require keys to be opened from the outside. But once you are inside, you don't need the keys to open the doors anymore. Choosing a method of practice is like choosing a key. Any key will get you inside, but you should not say that your key is the right key or best key while the others are bad keys, and bad doors, because once you have entered the door, it is all the same. How can you say that the other keys and doors are bad when they all lead to the same room?

It is because we do not understand the mind, and that we do not diligently practice our Chan or Pure Land, that we give rise to these discrimination. Diligent does not mean only practicing your Chan or Pure Land. You have to observe the precepts, read and understand the Sutras, cultivate concentration, and wisdom. You will not give rise to greed, hatred, or ignorance if your practice is fruitful. You will be disciplined in your practice. These 3 ingredients are the foundations of every practice. The key is in your own practice. You should not go to different places or centers to join their practices. What do you gain from going to different places to meditate or recite the Buddha's name that you cannot do it at home? The place of practice is not a physical place itself! It is your own mind.

When Bodhidharma (菩提達摩) started out as a monastic, his master gave his disciples a task: Build a house or a roof within a week that represents your resolve to cultivate. Some of his disciples built small houses, medium houses, and big houses. Bodhidharma was very unlucky in a way, that whenever he was about to finish building a house, it got blown off by the wind, tore down by rain, or got some parts taken away by other disciples. Maybe he wasn't unlucky, that there were actually Dharma protectors helping him in that way. On the last day, everyone finished building their houses. However, Bodhidharma did not build any house. When the master asked why he did not build any house, Bodhidharma replied that the house has already been built. The Master answered "Very Well!". This "house" that Bodhidharma said is the mind, while the "house" of other disciples are physical houses. From here we should understand that there is no physical place you can cultivate at; and the only place you can cultivate is your mind. This is why Bodhisattvas take empty space as their home. They have fully understood this principle and entered the Dharma door.

We have to understand the Dharma to cultivate proper Chan or Pure Land. Pure Land and Chan, Chan and Pure Land, are nothing but different names and terms to the same door. They are like keys to the same room, but through different doors. If we really understand this principle, we will not discriminate against other schools. If we really understand the Dharma, we will not go out to seek places to practice, meditate or recite the Buddha's name. We as beginners, do not have the wisdom to understand all Dharmas, to discriminate between fake and real Dharma. One mistake, and we will fall into the external paths, the paths that Buddhists should not ever take. When you fall into this path, you will not be able to distinguish truth from false. You will take a thief as your son. This is very sad. You invited a thief into a house, and not knowing that he is a thief, not your son. He will steal all your treasures and left you with nothing. Going to different places to practice your Chan or Pure Land without wisdom is like that.

We need to have a pure mind. A mind that knows the truth from false. Hence cultivating precepts, concentration, and wisdom is foremost important in your practice. Without them, you'll go running to different places but not learning a single thing. We should not discriminate between schools. We should propagate all of the right Dharmas and schools, while cultivating our own. That way, Buddhism can still survive and the Dharma ending age will never come.

106 views0 comments
bottom of page