Part Six

Accounts of rebirth into the Paradise of Amidists, in the religious order and among laymen and women, old and young, for whom there are extraordinary signs at the hour of death are given in the book entitled, "Records of Rebirth into the Pure Land: Biographies of Amidists." I have witnessed, with my own eyes, more than twenty cases, not to mention those which I have heard of.  Now I shall cite only three out of many which I have seen so that faith may be inspired in all of us.

The first concerns Dharma Master Hsiu Wu, a native of Yingkow, a bricklayer before he joined the religious order.  Hard life and toilsome labor reminded him that there was only suffering and no lasting joy in this world of ours.  He tried to discover the way to eliminate suffering.  Later, he heard of the advantages of Amidism and resolved to pursue this practice. After he left home, he received formal Buddhist training and became even more zealous in Amidist practice. He also advised people whom he met to practice Arnidism.

In 1929, I was in Sukhavati Temple of Harbin in the Northeast,[35] and invited Grand Master Ti Hsien to transmit the precepts.  One day, one of the Bhiksus in the outer court of the temple came to tell me that a Master Hsiu Wu had arrived from Yingkow and was prepared to practice austerity during the period of precept transmission.  Later, he was ushered in to see me.  I asked him what he was able to do.

"I am willing to look after the sick," he declared.

Master Ting Hsi, then the head of the Sukhavati Temple, assigned a room to him in the outer court of the temple where he stayed for more than ten days. He came again to tell me that he had decided to go away.

Master Ting Hsi, who was present at that time, asked him, "You have made up your mind to look after the sick.  Now you want to go away after only 10 of 50 days.  Isn't this very inconsistent?"

Master Hsiu Wu replied, "I am not leaving for any place other than rebirth in the Pure Land. Will you, Master, have mercy and order some firewood for my cremation after my death?"[36]

"When will you depart?" asked Master Ting Hsi.

"Probably within ten days," Master Hsiu Wu answered and then returned to his room.

He came again to see me and Master Ting Hsi, and said, "May I ask leave from you, Masters.  I am going today.  Please let me have a room all to myself, and also ask some people to assist me in invoking Buddha's name to see me off."

Master Ting Hsi ordered that a room in the Cemetery Building be cleaned and that a bunk be constructed of a few planks.  He then went to the outer court and asked some Bhiksus to see Master Hsiu Wu off by assisting him in reciting Buddha's name.

When he was about to depart; the people who were bidding him farewell said, "Master Hsiu Wu, today you are going to Buddha's Land.  Won't you compose some verses or gathas as a remembrance for us?"

Master Hsiu Wu replied, "I was originally an unskilled laborer, far from being bright, and I cannot write verses or gathas.  I have only a few words gathered from my experience to offer you: To be able to speak but be unable to act is not genuine ability."

All who heard him knew that he was treading on solid ground.  Then they recited Buddha's name in unison.  Master Hsiu Wu joined them, sitting cross-legged, facing the west.  He departed after fifteen minutes.

The temple had a tall casket constructed to enable the body to take a sitting position.  Toward evening, though the weather was hot, he looked extraordinarily elegant and utterly fresh that not even a single  housefly  was attracted to him. Grand Master Ti Hsien and others all rushed to see him and exclaimed that it indeed surprised them. Then the casket was set aflame atop the firewood. Red flames and whitish smoke rose, perfuming the air with a lovely aroma.

This event was afterwards related to Mr. Tui-Fu Pan, a senior Buddhist devotee, who wrote an article giving the account of Master Hsiu Wu's life and his practice of Amidism.  This article was printed and widely distributed, for he considered Master Hsiu Wu to be an excellent example among all the Bhiksus.

Secondly, there was Mr. Hsi-Ping Cheng, a native of Chi-Mo in Shantung.  He was a business man.  After reading the sutras, he learned that it was good to recite Buddha's name and resolved to practice Amidism and observed celibacy all his life.

In 1933, in Tsintao, after I told him about the advantages of taking the Three Refuges and practicing Amidism,  he became much more devoted in his practice. He handed over the family business to his younger brother and then attended to the practice of Amidism with undivided attention.  Later, he learned and was able to explain the Amitabha Sutra. Every year, he invariably went from Chi-Mo to Tsintao, where he stayed for one or two days, and then proceeded to Pingtu district, where he gave a few lectures on the sutra to his Buddhist friends.

In 1935, Mr.  Cheng invited me to preach in Pingtu.

In the spring of 1939, Mr.  Cheng went to Pingtu, via Tsintao, to lecture on the sutra.

After two weeks, someone came from Pingtu and told me, "Don't you know, Master, that Mr. Hsi-Ping Cheng is gone?"

I was stunned by this news, and said: "Some ten days ago he was quite well when he passed by here.  How could it be that now he is gone so suddenly? What ailed him? How did he pass away?"

When Mr. Cheng had finished his lecture on the Amitabha Satra, I was told, most of his audience left.  Only five or six who had made arrangement for the lectures stayed on for lunch, as they were good friends.  After lunch, Mr. Cheng asked one of his friends to have one room rented for him because he was going away.

His friend asked him, "If you are going away, why do you need a room?"

"I am going to be reborn in the Pure Land," Mr.  Cheng replied, "People, however, may not like the idea that I might die in their house."

His friend said, "We have been good friends for many years, so that even if you were not to be reborn in the Pure Land and even if you were to succumb to illness, you would be welcome to pass away in my home.  Why bother to find a room somewhere else?  Now, we have here many who believe in Buddhism and practice Amidism.  If you are sure of your rebirth in the Pure Land, you should let the Amidists here witness your example."

Having said these words, his friend had two rooms in his house vacated and a bunk prepared. Mr. Cheng bid a brief farewell to his friends, giving himself a good shake,  and sat on the bunk, cross-legged, facing the west.

Then he said, "I beg your leave for I am going now. Since we have gathered in the faith of Buddha, I ask, most humbly, that you please invoke Buddha's name in seeing me off."

A friend said: "Won't you give us a gatha as a token of remembrance?"

Mr. Cheng replied: "lt is not necessary to give any gatha.  You see how I may go without ado like this.  You may remember me by following my example."

After  hearing these words, they all recited Buddha's name in bidding him goodbye. Mr. Cheng passed away smiling, in less than fifteen minutes. Hence almost all the people in Pingtu knew that it was good to practice Amidism.  Many, many people were thus led to believe in Buddhism.

Mr. Cheng's younger brother had been disappointed in his elder brother, who had given up the family and handed over their business to him in order to concentrate on the practice of Amidism. Later,  after repeated persuasion by this elder brother, the younger one also came to believe in Buddha's teaching and practiced Amidism, though rather reluctantly and not in earnest.  However, now he had witnessed his elder brother's rebirth in the Pure Land while reciting Buddha's name, clearly knowing in advance the hour of his departure, and going with dignity and without fuss.  He then realized the absolute truth of Amidism. Afterwards, he did nothing but practice Amidism.  Three years later, he, too, knew in advance the hour of his departure and passed away to be reborn in the Pure Land, though he suffered some illness,  and his passing was not as trouble-free as his brother's had been.

The third example [37] is that of Mrs.  Chang, a devotee of Tsintao.  She had two children, a boy and girl.  The family lived in poor circumstances. Her husband was a rickshaw-puller, serving the area around the wharves of the port.  They lived near the Chan Shan House, where the Society for the Study of Buddhism was founded.  Arrangements were made for me to visit the society and preach there every Sunday. After my sermon, the devotees held a session for Amidist practice. Mrs. Chang took this opportunity to take refuge in the Precious Three and heard the Dharma. She was very devout, practicing Amidism at home on weekdays, and she brought her children to the society on Sundays to listen to the sermons and to join the congregation in reciting Buddha's name.

One winter day in 1937, Mrs.  Chang arose in the morning and told her husband, "please take good care of the childreh, for I am going away today to Buddha's Land."

Her husband, who was busy everyday earning a living and ignorant of Buddhism, angrily said, "Oh, stop it.  Isn't it enough that we are so poor? Now you find it fit to put on such a play!"

After saying this,  he paid her no further attention and went off to work.
Mrs.  Chang turned to her children and said, "Today I am going to the Western Paradise.  You two must be good and listen to your father.  Don't be naughty."

The children, both very young, one ten and the other five, did not understand what their mother had said.  They continued playing.

Mrs.  Chang then did some household chores. After washing and combing her hair, she put on her simple dress, old but freshly laundered, as she had no new or fancy dress.  She sat on the bed, with legs crossed, facing the west, and passed away while invoking Buddha's name.

Later, her two children came inside expecting to eat, only to find their mother motionless, sitting on the bed.  Their food was not prepared. She did not reply when they called.  She did not budge when they pushed her.  Then they realized that something serious had happened to her. The children wept and told the neighbors, who rushed in to see that Mrs. Chang, though apparently having been dead, for some time,  still looked alive. They admired her achievement in the Amidist practice.

Later, Mrs.  Chang's husband came home from the wharves.  He wept grievously.  As he was so poor and had no money for the funeral, members of the society raised the funds to take care of the necessary arrangements.

In conclusion,  let us realize that the most important thing in our life is to practice Amidism in order to put an end to samsara, the cycles of birth and death. In all circumstances we must make adjustments to our surroundings so that we may find time, even in our busy schedules, to practice sitting in silent meditation and practice Amidism for some time every day; While working, we can also practice Amidism silently in our minds.  Otherwise, indulging all day  in  cruelty,  stealing,  lying, carnality,  and evil thoughts will involve us in wrongdoing,  and  creates evil karma which will surely lead us to the three evil paths.

Buddha said in the Surangama Sutra, "You owe me one life, and I repay you the debt.  From such a cause and its associated effects, we continue in Samsara through hundreds and thousands of eons. You cherish my heart, and I admire your beauty. On account of this cause and its associated factors, we are always in entanglements and bondage through hundreds and thousands of eons.  Only the three evils-killing,  stealing,  and carnality--are  basic evils.  Because of their causes and related factors, karmic consequences succeed each other."

Just think for a moment how miserable it is to commit the evils of cruelty, stealing, and carnality. I sincerely advise you to hasten to start Amidist practice and to practice as much as you can.  As the saying  states,  one ejaculation of Buddha's name may bring unlimited merits.  One bow to Buddha may eradicate as many sins as the sand grains in the Ganges River."[38]

I have tried to tell you, generally and in a rather fragmentary way, of the benefits to be gained by Amidist practice.  For a detailed and complete treatment, there are the five sutras of the Pure Land and the Ten Essentials of Pure Land for further study.  I have only given you a brief introduction in order to inspire your faith.  It is my hope that all of us, now being aware of the advantages of Amidist practice, will be strengthened in our faith and put the six sense faculties under control and maintain pure thoughts, so that we may tread on solid ground and practice Amidism in all earnest, and so that we may all finally reassemble in the Western Paradise.

[End]
 

ORIGINAL VERSION IN CHINESE

Respectfully recorded by Ta Kuang on the first day of the first lunar month, 1950, in the South China Buddhist Academy, Hong Kong.

TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH

Piously sponsored by a group of the Grand-master's disciples,  including Dharma-masters and devontees, who wish to commemmorate the Centennial of the Grandmaster's birth by introducing this gem of his teachings to the western world, on the first day of the sixth month 1973 (lunar calendar); in the Temple of Enlightenment, Bronx, New York.
 

I vow that when my life approaches its end,
All obstructionswill be swept away;
I will see Amitabha Buddha,
And be born in his Land of Ultimate Bliss.

When reborn in the Western Land,
I will perfect and completely fulfill
Without exception these Great Vows,
To delight and benefit all beings.

The Vows of Samantabhadra
Avatamsaka Sutra
The Teachings Of Great Master Yin Guang

Whether one is a layperson or has left the home life, one should respect elders and be harmonious to those surrounding him. One should endure what others cannot, and practice what others can not achieve. One should take others' difficulties unto oneself and help them succeed in their undertakings. While sitting quietly, one should often reflect upon one's own faults, and when chatting with friends, one should not discuss the rights and wrongs of others. In every action one makes, whether dressing or eating, from dawn to dusk and dusk till dawn, one should not cease to recite the Buddha's name. Aside from Buddha recitation, whether reciting quietly or silently, one should not give rise to other improper thoughts. If wandering thoughts appear, one should immediately dismiss them. Constantly maintain a humble and repentful heart; even if one has upheld true cultivation, one should still feel one's practice is shallow and never boast. One should mind one's own business and not the business of others. Only look after the good examples of others instead of bad ones. One should see oneself as mundane and everyone else as Bodhisattvas. If one can cultivate according to these teachings, one is sure to reach the Western Pure land of Ultimate Bliss.

Homage to Amitabha! Amitabha!
 

"Wherever the Buddha's teachings have been received, either in cities or countrysides, people would gain inconceivable benefits. The land and people would be enveloped in peace. The sun and moon will shine clear and bright. Wind and rain would appear accordingly, and there will be no disasters. Nations would be prosperous and there would be no use for soldiers or weapons. People would abide by morality and accord with laws. They would be courteous and humble, and everyone would be content without injustices. There would be no thefts or violence. The strong would not dominate the weak and everyone would be settled at their proper place in society."
 * The Sutra of Amitatha's Purity, Equality and understanding

DEDICATION OF MERIT

May the merit and virtues
accrued from this work,
Adorn the Buddha's Pure Land,
Repaying the four kinds
of kindness above,
and relieving the sufferings of
those in the Three Paths below.

May those who see and hear of this,
All bring forth the heart of
Understanding,
And live the Teachings for
the rest of this life,
Then be born together in
The Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Homage to Amitabha Buddha!

NAMO AMITABHA

Reprinted and Donated for free distribution by
The Corporatete Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation
11th Foor, 55, Hang Chow S. Rd. Sec 1, Taipei Taiwan R.O.C
Tel: 886-2-3951198, Far 886-2-3913415
Printed in Taiwan
1997 June, 30000 copies
 
 

Previous              Front