Part Four

Buddhism took its natural course in China and developed into many schools, such as Tien T'ai school, Hsien Shou school, Fa Hsiang (also known as T'zu En or Wei Shih) school, Amidist school, Tantric school, Dhyana school, Vinaya school, etc. These schools were founded later for the transmission of the teaching and for the specialization of learning. Most of these schools are distinct from each other. However, the practices and tenets of the Amidist and Vinaya schools blended and were shared by other schools.  They are also practiced by the seven categories [30] of Buddha's followers.

For instance, T'ien T'ai, Hsien Shou, San Lun, and Fa Hsiang differ in their teaching and vary in methods of meditation. Generally speaking, however, they all consider it most convenient to practice Amidism, and their followers may realize Buddhahood through this practice.  Even in the Dhyana school, there is the meditation theme: "Who is invoking Buddha's name?" In short, no matter whether one renounces the world and enters the religious life or remains at home,  no matter what his original motives are in following Buddha, one's sole aim is nothing but the realization of Buddhahood through the practice of Amidism. For example, in the great Chinese monasteries, both in the south and north, no matter to what schools devotees belong, when participating in the circumambulation in the grand hall twice every day,  the  invocation, "Namo Amitabha" is always repeated. All oral communications always begin and are responded to with the invocation, "Namo Amitabha." Of course, all have the same final goal: to be reborn in the Western Paradise, to see Buddha, and finally to realize Buddhahood.  So you see what a convenient and popular approach Amidism is as a way of practice.

At the same time, in the process of following Buddha to realize enlightenment, one has to follow and keep the precepts.  Whether or not Buddhism flourishes depends on its followers adhering to the precepts.  If Buddha's precepts are followed and kept by all, Buddhism will remain a vital force in the world. Otherwise, Buddhism will become extinct with the march of time.

When Buddha Sakyamuni was living he was the example for all his followers,  and his disciples considered him the Master.  After his death, all took the precepts as the Master.

When Buddha was near death, his followers, pleading with him to stay in the world, surrounded him, lamenting bitterly.  Though in extreme grief, a thought suddenly occurred to Elder Wu P'in.  He thought that previously Buddha's followers had him as a guide, but now that he was about to enter Parinirvana, there were still several questions to be clarified.  At this point, Ananda was standing by Buddha, weeping grievously, with his face covered. Ananda was Buddha's  personal  attendant,  and therefore most likely to transmit the Dharma as he was present whenever Buddha preached. Therefore, elder Wu P'in requested Ananda to ask Buddha several questions:  As all his followers dwelt with Buddha while he was still living, with whom would they abide after his passing?  Since all looked upon Buddha as the Master when he was living, who or what were they to take as their master after Buddha's Parinirvana?

In reply to Ananda's inquiry, Buddha said: "After my Nirvana, you should abide with the four Smrtyrupasthana" (i.e., objects on which the mind should dwell),[31] and should take the precepts as the Master."

So you see how important the precepts are to future generations!

All disciples of Buddha must follow and keep Buddha's precepts. Even if one may find it impossible to keep all the precepts, he must still follow and keep some of the more important training rules.  If he can only keep a few precepts, it will be better than keeping none at all.

Each of the monasteries in north and south China has its own regulations  and  traditional practices.  These regulations and practices are the precepts kept by all. Which temple or monastery or other establishment can function entirely without any regulations? Even for ordinary people, there are certain limits and controls in everyday relations. Therefore,  it is equally important to keep the precepts and to practice Amidism.

The great Vinaya Master Hung I,  though specializing in Vinaya, personally practiced Amidism wholeheartedly and devotedly. He advised people to practice Amidism whenever they had an opportunity. Many other grand masters, such as Ti Hsien, Hsu Yun, etc., placed special emphasis on Amidism. Hence, it is said:

"For teachings, develop your own school. And for self-cultivation, practice Amidism."

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