A Chinese Republican-era monk and reformer of the Pure Land tradition widely recognized as the thirteenth patriarch of Pure Land. A native of Shansi Province, he left his family early in life to join the monastic order (Saṃgha). Once, his family tricked him into returning home, but they were unable to keep him there, and he ran away again and severed all contact. During his early training, he struggled with conjunctivitis, and was cured by vigorous recitation of Amitābha Buddha's name. He had been a good student as a child, and his literary abilities induced the abbots of the various temples where he resided during his early monastic career to ask him to take charge of the monastic library. This involved periodic ‘sunning of the scriptures’, laying the volumes out in the sun to dry them and prevent mildew. During these times, he was able to peruse Buddhist literature freely, and he felt particularly drawn to the works of the twelfth Pure Land patriarch Chi-hsing Ch'o-wu (1741-1810) while residing at the Tzu-fu Temple where Ch'o-wu himself had lived. He was particularly impressed that Ch'o-wu, an acknowledged Ch'an master who had experienced full enlightenment, late in life abandoned the path of Ch'an as too rigorous and uncertain for the majority of people and devoted himself to Pure Land practice. These experiences fixed his loyalty in the Pure Land path from the start.
Wishing for solitude, Yin-kuang spent 30 years on P'u-t'uo Island under an assumed name, and underwent two consecutive three-year periods of sealed confinement. Even though he kept well hidden from the public eye, he still answered letters that came his way inquiring about teachings and practices. His literary skill and genuine sincerity and piety showed through in these exchanges, and in 1917 his correspondents began collecting and publishing his letters. He himself oversaw the republication of classics of Pure Land literature such as Chih-hsü's Ten Essentials of the Pure Land and The Recorded Sayings of Ch'an Master Ch'o-wu, along with essays of his own denigrating Ch'an and endorsing Pure Land practice, included in his Treatise Resolving Doubts About the Pure Land (Chinese, Ching-t'u chüeh-i lun). These publications caught the heart of the Buddhist reading public, and Yin-kuang became quite well-known in spite of himself. In 1930, he agreed to take over as abbot of the Pao-kuo Temple in Soochow, and became involved in the life of the nearby Ling-yen Shan Temple as well. In 1937, he moved to the latter in the face of the Japanese invasion of China, and in the three years remaining to him he produced a new breviary for monastic daily liturgies and rituals that turned away from the Ch'an emphasis of previous breviaries and included more Pure Land practice. This breviary became the basis for the one most commonly used in Taiwan today. At the same time, he remained cloistered, but faithfully counselled the stream of people who came to his wicket to exchange words with him. After his death in 1940, he was popularly acclaimed the thirteenth patriarch of the Pure Land tradition in China.
GREAT MASTER YIN GUANG
Thirteenth Patriarch of the Pure Land school
Whether a layperson or a monastic, we need to respect those who are older than we are and to exist harmoniously with those around us. We are to endure what others cannot and practice what others cannot achieve. We should do all we can on behalf of others and help them to be good. When sitting quietly, we would do well to reflect on our own faults. When talking with friends do not discuss the rights and wrongs of others.
In our every action, from dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn, mindfully chant the Buddha’s name. When chanting, whether aloud or silently, do not give rise to wandering thoughts. If wandering thoughts arise, immediately dismiss them. Constantly maintain a modest and regretful heart. Even if we have upheld true cultivation, we still need to feel that our practice is shallow and never boast. We should mind our own business and not the business of others. We should see only the good examples of others instead of their shortcomings. We would do well to see ourselves as ordinary and everyone else as bodhisattvas.
If we can cultivate according to these teachings, we are sure to reach the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Being Attached to Set Forms of Practice
You may recite the Buddha's name sitting, standing, kneeling, or circumambulating the altar, etc. but you should not be attached to any set ways.
If you become attached to a fixed position, your body may tire easily and your mind may find it difficult to merge with the Mind of the Buddhas. To reap benefits, you should make allowances for your health or habits and skillfully select the practice that fits your circumstances.
Traditionally, Pure Land practitioners circumambulate the altar at the beginning of a Buddha Recitation session. then sit down, and, finally, kneel. However, if you feel tired when circumambulation or kneeling, you should sit down and recite. If you become drowsy while seated, you can circumambulate the altar or recite standing up, waiting for the drowsiness to go away before sitting down again. When reciting, it is better to determine the length of the session with a clock, rather than fingering a rosary, as doing so may make it difficult to focus the mind and keep it empty and pure.
Mistaking a Thief for a Son
Greed, anger, and delusion are afflictions common to everyone. However, if you are aware that they are diseases, their power should not be overwhelming. They are like thieves who have broken into the house. If the owner mistakes them for members of the household, all the valuables in the house will be stolen. If, on the other hand, he recognizes the thieves as such and immediately chases them away, his valuables will be safeguarded and he will be at peace. In this connection, the ancients have said:
Fear not the early arising of thoughts [[[greed]], anger, delusion, etc.]; fear only the late awareness of them as such.
When greed, anger, and delusion arise, as long as you recognize them for what they are, these thoughts will immediately be destroyed. However, if you take them for the true master of your household, it is no different from mistaking a thief for your son. How can your riches not be squandered and lost.
If You Want Melons, You Need to Plant Melon Seeds
When ordinary beings meet with disaster, if they do not resent the heavens, they blame their fellow beings. Very few think of repaying their karma and developing a mind of repentance and reform. You should know that “if you plant melons, you reap melons; if you plant beans, you reap beans.” This is the natural course of events. Having sown thorns, do not expect, when the harvest comes, to have wheat and rice. If those who create evil still enjoy blessings, it is because in previous lifetimes they amassed great blessings; if not for their transgressions, their blessings would have been much greater.
It is as if a scion of a wealthy family were to lead a dissipated life, lusting and gambling, squandering money like so much dirt without suffering hunger and cold immediately because of his great fortune. Yet, if he were to continue in this manner day in and day out, even with a family estate in the millions, one day he would surely lose all his property and suffer a premature death.
If those who perform wholesome deeds customarily meet with misfortune, it is because they planted the seeds of transgression deeply in past lifetimes. If not for their good deeds, their misfortunes would have been much worse.
Effective Buddha-name Chanting Method
When one feels it is difficult to concentrate while chanting, one should first collect one’s wandering thoughts and chant sincerely with serious effort. Then one’s mind will be unified. To unify one’s mind, one must first be sincere and serious. If sincerity and seriousness are lacking, it is not possible for one to collect one’s wandering thoughts. If one is sincere and serious, but the wandering thoughts persist, one should attentively listen to one’s own chanting.
Whether the chants are silent or voiced, every chant must arise from one’s mind. The voice exits one’s mouth and enters one’s ears.
Giving rise to the Buddha-name clearly with one’s mind, chanting it clearly with one’s mouth, and hearing it clearly with one’s ears will help unify one’s mind and the wandering thoughts will naturally stop. If one’s mind is still flooded with wandering thoughts, then one should use the ten-chant-and-count method, and devote all one’s energy to chanting the Buddha-name. Even if the wandering thoughts still exist, they will not be able to function.
This is the ultimate method to unify one’s mind and one’s chant.
Those who expounded the Pure Land school in the past did not mention this method because their faculties were considered sharp enough and they were able to unify their minds without it.
I had problems collecting and controlling my wandering thoughts and then realized the effectiveness of this method. I have used it many times and never failed. I am not sharing this information lightly or by imagination. I want to share this method with everyone as well as those in future generations so that anyone who practices this method can successfully attain rebirth in the Pure Land.
What is the ten-chant-and-count method?
When chanting, one chants ten times in a single breath. Every chant must be clear, and one must count and remember where one is and stop at the tenth chant. One then repeats the process, but never counts to the twentieth or the thirtieth chant. One must count and remember while chanting, and not rely on moving the chanting beads. Counting and remembering must be in one’s mind.
If it is difficult to complete ten chants in one breath, one can chant for two breaths. The first breath is for the first five chants, the second breath for the remaining five chants. If two-breath chanting is still difficult, one can break the ten chants into three breaths. The first through the third, the fourth through the sixth, and the seventh through the tenth chants complete in three breaths.
If one can chant clearly, count and remember the chants clearly, and hear one’s own chants clearly, wandering thoughts will have no place to step in. Over time, the state of one-mind undisturbed can be attained naturally.
Belief and Vow
If one wants to quickly be free of the suffering in samsara, there is no method better than mindfully chanting the Buddha-name and seeking rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
f one wants to be absolutely certain of attaining rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it is best for one to be led by belief and compelled forward by vow.
When one’s belief is firm and vow is earnest, even if one chants the Buddha-name with a scattered mind, one will surely be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. When one’s belief is not sincere and vow is not resolute, even if one chants with One Mind Undisturbed, one still will not be able to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
What is belief? First, one believes in the power of the vows of Amitabha Buddha. Second, one believes in the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha. Third, one believes in the extolment by all the Buddhas in the six directions.
When people of integrity in this world do not speak any untruthful words, how would Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha, and all the Buddhas in the six directions do so? If one does not believe these Buddhas’ words, one truly cannot be saved.
What is vow? At all times, one feels aversion to the suffering of the cycle of birth and death in the Saha world and believes and yearns for the Bodhi bliss in the Western Pure Land.
When one does a deed, if it is a good one, then one dedicates the merit to rebirth in the Western Pure Land; if it is a bad one, then one repents and vows to be reborn in the Western Pure Land. One has no other aspirations. This is vow.
When one has both belief and vow, mindfully chanting the Buddha-name to attain rebirth [in the Western Pure Land] is the main practice, and correcting wrongdoings and cultivating good deeds is the auxiliary practice.