Chapter 26: Recitation of Buddha`s Name and Mantra
|26. Recitation of Buddha`s Name and Mantra
Written by Sheng-yen Lu
Translated and edited by True Buddha Foundation Translation Team
When I first learned Buddhism, I came across a story which touched me deeply. Here is how the story goes:
An old woman, who practiced the recitation of the Buddha`s name, made a vow
to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha 500 billion times before she was willing to gain rebirth in his Pure Land.
The old woman recited the Buddha`s name by counting beans. However, she fell sick one day, and she also did not have enough beans to count with, and she was far from the goal of 500 billion recitations. What should she do? The old woman was worried, and the more she became worried, the more she felt helpless.
Then, two major bodhisattvas, who were touched by her conviction, manifested themselves as two monks who came by her house. After they found out about the old woman`s plight, they told her, `You can simply recite `Namo the 36 trillion, 119 thousand, 500 Amitabha Buddhas.` ` Once this was recited, it would immediately fulfill her goal, with plenty to spare. Haha!
So the old woman recited: `Namo the 36 trillion, 119 thousand, 500 Amitabha Buddhas.` With this single recitation, all the beans fell to the ground, and the old woman passed away instantly, gaining rebirth in the Pure Land. The two monks transformed back into bodhisattvas, and vanished.
When I read this story, I immediately committed it to memory and subsequently recited, `Namo the 36 trillion, 119 thousand, 500 Amitabha Buddhas!` I remembered I would first recite this once before I continue to do my usual recitations of the Buddha`s name, and after I finish my recitations, prior to dedication of merits, I would again recite this sentence once. Whenever I wanted to recite the Buddha`s name, I would chant this recitation.
This recitation did bring results and so it was proven to be effective. I also taught my students to learn this recitation, `Namo the 36 trillion, 119 thousand, 500 Amitabha Buddhas,` and many today are reciting the Buddha`s name this way.
However, I want to say to you that you should not be lazy about reciting the Buddha`s name, and you must `recite the Buddha`s name genuinely,` and must not stop at one single recitation. You must recite `Amitabha Buddha` in a genuinely sincere fashion. The `Namo the 36 trillion, 119 thousand, 500 Amitabha Buddhas!` is meant to be recited in times of emergency. You must never be lazy!
What good is reciting the Buddha`s name? `The Dharma Gate of Pure Land universally draws all towards itself, for there is no distinction of sentient beings, no regard to whether they are of superior, average or low caliber, whether or not they have committed the five deadly sins and the ten evil deeds, or if they would face the manifestation of hell visions, for as long as they have complete faith in calling on the Buddha, they will immediately reach the Other Shore` (Translator`s note: This is an extract from The Pure Land Scripture of Longshu, written by the lay Buddhist Longshu during China`s Southern Song Dynasty).
Master Ou-I says, `The enlightened ones took pity on the multitudes of deluded sentient beings, and put forth transformative teachings to suit the various potentials of these deluded sentient beings. Although these teachings all derive from the same source, many different expedient methods are employed.
Among all these expedients, if we seek the most direct and the most complete, none is as good as seeking birth in the Pure Land through reciting the Buddha`s name.`
We should therefore advise the bardo spirits: `The Western Paradise is right before you. As you single-mindedly recite the Buddha`s name, think of yourself being reborn in the Western Pure Land.` This would be the Instruction to the Dying.
We know that the mantra is the secret language of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and is called the True Word (translator`s note: Shingon in Japanese), as in the True Word Dharani. Every single True Word is the most wonderfully expressed language of the Tathagatas, for it is the secret of all Tathagatas, which gives one the power to self-realize the sacred wisdom.
Hence, Tsongkapa says, `Reciting the Buddha`s name helps you focus on the the Buddha`s identity. Reciting the Buddha`s mantra helps you touch the Buddha`s heart.`
When one gains yogic response with the recitation of mantra, his hindrances are eradicated, while his wisdom is increased. A mundane mortal will be transformed into a sage, gaining supernatural powers of unimaginable strength. Thus, it is called `secret.`
Between these two practices, I would personally advocate either one, whether it is reciting the Buddha`s name or mantra, because neither one is better than the other.
In the past, Master Lian Chi, the Eighth-Patriarch of the Pure Land School, advocated:
`The single-minded recitation of the epithet of Amitabha Buddha surpasses the merits of all other practices. A single, perfectly sincere repetition of the name `Amitabha Buddha` obliterates the grave wrongdoings of eighty trillion eons of birth and death. Reciting the Buddha`s name is itself the great transcendental mantra, the great bright mantra, the utmost mantra, the supreme mantra.
`By reciting the Buddha`s name ten times, one gains rebirth, and with this rebirth there will be no relapse. Fathoming its power and effectiveness is impossible, so it is thus known as the great transcendental mantra.
`When one is undistracted and single-mindedly chants the Buddha`s name, it cuts the bonds of ignorance and allows one to see the Self-Nature, hence, the great bright mantra.`
`It facilitates rebirth to Sukhavati, and attainment of the ultimate buddhahood, hence, the utmost mantra.
`One attains awareness of the complete non-arising and returns to the Saha world to deliver sentient beings, hence, the supreme mantra.`
Master Lian Chi says that reciting the Buddha`s name is itself the great transcendental mantra, the great bright mantra, the utmost mantra, the supreme mantra. Reciting the Buddha`s name is equivalent to upholding a mantra. I have only praise for this insight!
I cultivate the practice of the secret word, and my views on mantras are outlined below. It represents:
1. The heart of the Tathagata.
2. The eye of the Tathagata.
3. The absence of defilement in all phenomenon.
4. Supernatural transformation and benediction.
5. Non-birth, non-death.
6. The lotus treasury.
7. The diamond truth.
8. The true wisdom.
9. The nature of ultimate quiescence
10. This very body is the Pure Land.
11. No differences, and formlessness.
12. Consistent workings of the universal law
13. Primal Awareness
14. Untainted, it serves to block all evils.
15. Attainment of buddhahood.
I have mentioned that mantra itself is the infinite treasury, for this list of fifteen points being written on mantra is considered to be most incredible and unthinkable. It is omnipresent in the dharma realms, all pervading with infinite manifestations and applications. Mantra is permanence, bliss, identity, and purity. It is the Void itself.
The great compassionate perfections numbering as many as the specks of dust from the worlds of Ten Directions are like the flower treasury, while the infinite emanation bodies spanning the three vehicles and the six realms are the leaves, the stem and the roots. All of them are illuminating lights, displaying a perfect and complete matrix of merits which is called the mandala, the Dharani. Thus it is the Secret Doctrine.
This is what I have to say:
As long as the mantra is a secret mantra from the guru`s lineage, you must receive empowerment to chant it, so that you may establish a resonance of sound vibration with the heart of your guru. This is how yoga works, for the recitation of mantra creates interconnectivity.
As the sound current has supreme power, the recitation of mantra gathers power, for this power is a frequency in resonance. Owing to the supreme power derived from Tantric mantra, the lineage vajra masters had laid down the rules for transmission of the dharma, so as to protect the lineage mantras from abuse and misuse by those who are wicked-minded and those with evil intentions. This is one reason why the lineage mantras are cautiously transmitted, and kept secret.
We must teach the bardo spirits to recite the Buddha`s name:
Recite the Buddha epithet that the individual spirit used to recite.
We must teach the bardo spirits to recite the Buddha`s mantra:
Recite the mantra that the individual spirit is familiar with.
A lineage mantra that is used to awaken him.
Once the mantra is recited, he will instantaneously gain yogic response, and ride on the wave of this mantra and gradually ascend to merge with the Clear Light.
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