English ilse v01-05 - Lecture Notes on the Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra

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無量壽經菁華講記 Lecture Notes on the Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra 淨空法師講述 by Venerable Master Chin Kung

無量壽經菁華講記
Lecture Notes on the Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra

淨空法師講述 
by Venerable Master Chin Kung

FOREWORD

淨空法師於一九九三年八月於美國舊金山大覺蓮社宣講《無量壽經菁華》,共計八小時。華藏講記組親聆音帶,摘要記錄,順文整理,並擷取一九九二年六月於美國聖荷西宣講《無量壽經》的相關內容,以為補充。現呈 淨空法師親自批改修訂,成《無量壽經菁華講記》,出版流通,供養讀者,同沾法益。

In August 1993, Venerable Master Chin Kung gave an eight-hour lecture series titled Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra at Ta Kioh Buddhist Temple in San Francisco, USA. The Hwa Dzan Lecture Notes Team transcribed the recorded lectures and organized them. In addition, relevant segments f-rom the lectures on the Infinite Life Sutra given in San Jose in June 1992 were excerpted as a supplement.

This compiled transcription was presented to Venerable Master Chin Kung for correction and editing. Titled Lecture Notes on the Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra, it has been published and freely circulated, humbly offered to readers for them to benefit f-rom the Dharma.

前言 
PREFACE

諸位法師、諸位同修:

Respected venerables and respected fellow practitioners:

這一次在「大覺蓮社」,預定四次八小時,介紹《大乘無量壽經》《無量壽經》在淨土宗稱為「大經」,我在美國曾經講過幾遍。

For this lecture series at Ta Kioh Buddhist Temple, I plan to give four lectures, eight hours in total, to introduce the Infinite Life Sutra. The Infinite Life Sutra is called The Longer Sutra in the Pure Land school. I have given several lecture series on it in the United States.

過去幾年,台灣印《大藏經》流通到全世界,已經超過十次以上,數量相當可觀。《四庫全書》《四庫薈要》這些中國古籍也都先後出版,流通到世界各國圖書館,再也不怕失傳。可是這麼多的寶藏若無人讀誦,依然非常可惜。幾個人一生當中有機會將《大藏經》看一遍?縱然發心閱藏,也不能貫通。所以,我就想到,假如能將經典中重要的句子摘錄下來,讓大家都能讀誦研究,應用在生活當中,中國固有的文化與大乘佛法才真正能利益眾生。

In the past few years, the Buddhist Canon has been printed in Taiwan and distributed around the world. After more than ten reprints, the number of copies in circulation is very impressive. The Chinese classics such as Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature and Se-lections f-rom the Four Branches of Literature have also been published and given to libraries around the world. Therefore, there is no fear of their being lost to the world.

The literary treasures are abundant, but it would be a shame if no one reads them. How many people have an opportunity to read the Buddhist Canon f-rom beginning to end even once in this lifetime? And when they attempt to read it, they may not be able to comprehend it.

It occurred to me that important passages in the sutras can be excerpted and compiled into a book to facilitate reading, studying, and practicing in life. In this way, traditional Chinese culture and Mahayana Buddhism will truly be able to benefit all beings.

弘一大師的《晚晴集》就是節錄佛經與祖師的語錄,共一百零一條。《晚晴集》我也做過一次通俗的研究討論,同學們聽了非常歡喜,我覺得這種方式值得一試。於是這次我就在《無量壽經》裡摘錄了六十條,如果試驗成功,我想《大藏經》也可以採取這種方法。《大正藏》總共一百冊,假如濃縮成一冊,就方便多了。《四庫全書》《四庫薈要》這些大部的典籍,也可以用此方法節錄成為一冊、二冊,將來人人都有機會閱讀。

Master Hongyi’s Wanqing Ji is a collection of excerpts f-rom the sutras and quotations f-rom the patriarchs, 101 of them in all. I once lectured on the Wanqing Ji in an easy-to-understand way and the audience liked it very much. Therefore, I feel studying the excerpts is worth trying. This time I have taken sixty excerpts f-rom the Infinite Life Sutra. If this experiment is successful, I think that the Buddhist Canon can be studied in this way. The Taisho Buddhist Canon is one hundred volumes. If it is condensed into one volume, studying it will be more convenient. The voluminous classics like the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature and Se-lections f-rom Library of the Four Branches of Literature can also be condensed into one or two volumes by excerption. This way, in the future, everyone will be able to read them.

當然節錄要有重點,要「應病與藥」。現今的社會、眾生有什麼症狀?社會秩序混亂,眾生思想矛盾,無依靠、無安全感,究其根源,莫不是倫理道德之喪失,與因果之理與事實無人重視,這是現前社會病態的主要因素。因此,我們的節錄就要著重倫理道德與因果的道理與事實。

Excerption requires identifying the essence. This is a must. It is like finding the right medicine for an illness. What symptoms are present society and people exhibiting? Today, society is in disorder. People have conflicting thoughts. They feel helpless and do not have any sense of security.

When we look into the root cause, we find it is none other than (1) people not maintaining proper relationships with others, (2) the loss of morality, and (3) people ignoring the principles and truth of the law of cause and effect. These are the main causes of today’s problems in society. This is why our excerptions should focus on morality and the principles and truth of causality.

我這次節錄的六十條就是以整個社會病態作為標準,而不是對修淨土的人所說的。如果對專修淨土,我不會選擇這些,一定選擇四十八願,與三十二到三十七品,這是專修淨土者不可不知、不可不讀的。

The sixty excerpts were chosen based on problems in society. The focus was not on Pure Land practitioners. For Pure Land practitioners, instead of these excerpts, I would definitely choose the forty-eight vows and chapters 32 to 37. These are the chapters Pure Land practitioners must study and understand.1

讀了這六十條,可以說讀了整部《無量壽經》。一部經不可能自始至終都契機,所以這一部經當中有不少冷場,不切實用,聽起來就沒有味道。而節錄出來的句句精華,無論是講、是聽、是讀,都能提起很高的修學興趣。

Reading these sixty excerpts is the same as reading the entire Infinite Life Sutra. It is impossible for a sutra to suit one’s capacity f-rom beginning to end. There may be parts that seem boring and that are not applicable for the reader. The reader may thus lose interest.

The excerpts, on the other hand, are the essence. Whether one reads them or listens to lectures on them, one will be greatly inspired to learn and practice them.

正釋經文 
Explanation of the Sutra Text

一、遵修普賢大士之德。具足無量行願。安住一切功德法中。

1. All followed and cultivated the virtues of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, were replete with infinite vows and practices, and steadfastly dwelt in the virtues and merits of all dharmas.

第一條就是淨宗的宗旨。

This first excerpt points out the objective of the Pure Land school.

古德將《普賢菩薩行願品》列在「淨土三經」之後,稱為「淨土四經」,其根據就是這一條,使我們明瞭西方極樂世界四土九品,從下下品到上上品,皆修普賢之德。難怪華藏會上四十一位法身大士,都要隨普賢菩薩念佛求生極樂世界。大乘經論也講,菩薩不修普賢行就不能圓成佛道,「圓」是指圓滿佛果,即天台家講的圓教佛果。

A well-accomplished practitioner added “The Chapter of the Vows and Practices of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva” to the three Pure Land sutras and named them the four Pure Land sutras. He did so based on the above excerpt. These words tell us that the beings in the Western Pure Land—in the four lands and f-rom the lowest to the highest of the nine rebirth grades—all cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra. It is not surprising then that in the Lotus Treasury assembly, all forty-one levels of Dharma-body Mahasattvas follow the example of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva—they mindfully chant the Buddha-name and seek rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

It is also stated in the Mahayana sutras that if a bodhisattva does not cultivate the practice of Samantabhadra, he will not be able to perfectly attain Buddhahood. “Perfect” refers to the attainment of perfect Buddhahood, which is the Buddhahood of the Perfect Teaching mentioned in the Tiantai school.

「無量行願」,「行」是實行,「願」是志願,濃縮來說就是「四弘誓願」,而「四弘誓願」展開就是無量行願。普賢菩薩以「十大願王」作為無量行願的總綱領。普賢行與其他所有行門不同之處,就是普賢菩薩的心是真正清淨平等,無分別、執著,盡虛空遍法界一視同仁。

“Vows” in “infinite vows and practices” means aspiration. “Practices” means implementation, to carry out. When we condense “infinite vows and practices,” we have the Four Great Vows. When expanded, the Four Great Vows become infinite vows and practices.

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva uses the Ten Great Vows as the key guiding principle for infinite vows and practices. The practice of Samantabhadra differs f-rom other methods, for the mind of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is truly pure and impartial: there is no discrimination or attachment. He treats everyone in the entire Dharma Realm equally.

「十大願王」,第一是「禮敬諸佛」,諸佛包括一切眾生。《華嚴經》《圓覺經》皆云:「一切眾生本來成佛。」所以,「禮敬諸佛」是過去佛、現在佛、未來佛(一切眾生)都平等恭敬、禮敬。

The first of the Ten Great Vows is “to respect all Buddhas.” “All Buddhas” encompasses all beings. The Avatamsaka Sutra and the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment both say: “All beings are Buddhas in nature.” Therefore, “to respect all Buddhas” is to equally respect the past Buddhas, the present Buddhas, and the future Buddhas (all beings).

經上講,一切有情眾生皆有佛性,無情眾生稱作「法性」,法性與佛性是一個性。所以,《華嚴經》云:「情與無情,同圓種智。」對無情,與敬佛一樣恭敬。譬如桌椅板凳是無情眾生,我們對它的恭敬與對諸佛的恭敬,無二無別,這稱為「普賢行」。我們見了桌椅板凳,把它擺得很整齊,擦得很乾淨,這就是對它的禮敬。所以,在儀式上、外表上有種種差別,內心的尊敬毫無差別。「禮敬諸佛」,要從此地學起。

It is stated in the sutras that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature. It is called Dharma-nature in non-sentient beings. Buddha-nature and Dharma-nature refer to the same nature. This is why the Avatamsaka Sutra says: “Sentient and non-sentient beings all have the same Buddha-wisdom.”

We should be as respectful to non-sentient beings as to Buddhas. For example, tables and chairs are non-sentient beings. Our respect to them should be the same as that to Buddhas, without any difference. This is the practice of Samantabhadra. When we see tables and chairs, we put them in their proper places and keep them clean. This is showing our respect to them. The respect in our hearts is exactly the same, though how we express the respect differs. Practicing respect for all Buddhas starts f-rom this point [the impartial respect for all beings].

不但至高無上的佛法從「禮敬」學起,佛門課誦本懺儀也常念到「一心恭敬」、「一心禮敬」,一心就是普賢行,一心是平等的。對佛是這個心,對人也是這個心,對畜生還是這個心,對桌椅板凳也是這個心,這就是「一心」。二心就有分別,就有差別,所以二心、三心就不恭敬了,就不是普賢行。一定要辨別清楚,才知道如何學習。

Respect—everything should start with it, not just when we are learning the supreme Buddha-dharma. “Single-minded respect”—we often read these words in the repentance section that appears in the Buddhist practice book. Single-mindedness is the practice of Samantabhadra. It signifies impartiality. Single-mindedness is maintaining the same mind whether we encounter Buddhas, people, animals, or tables and chairs. With two minds, differences and discrimination arise. Therefore, with two minds or three minds, we are not quite respectful and not following the practice of Samantabhadra. We must clearly understand this before we know how to learn.

第二是「稱讚如來」,「如來」與「諸佛」有何差別?「佛」是從相上說,我們要一心平等恭敬;「如來」是從性上說,若是與性相應的是善事,我們要讚歎;不相應的是惡事,惡事、惡人不讚歎,但是要恭敬,所謂「敬而遠之」,恭敬心是沒有差別的。

The second vow is “to praise Tathagata.”2 What is the difference between “Tathagata” and “Buddha”? F-rom the aspect of form, we say “Buddha.” We should single-mindedly and equally respect all [Buddhas, all beings]. F-rom the aspect of nature, we say “Tathagata.” If something accords with the true nature, then it is good and we should praise it. If it does not accord with the true nature, then it is bad. We should be respectful to all but we should not praise bad things or wrongdoers. We should keep our distance [i.e., not learn f-rom them] and continue to be respectful. In our respect, there should be no difference.

「善財童子五十三參」就是一個很好的例子,善財童子每參訪一位善知識,一定是先禮敬,然後讚歎。可是五十三位善知識中,有三位他有禮敬,沒有讚歎。這三位,第一位是勝熱婆羅門,代表愚痴;第二位是甘露火王,代表瞋恚;第三位是伐蘇蜜多女,代表貪愛;這三位代表「貪、瞋、痴」。對於「貪瞋痴」,善財童子參學時有禮敬沒有讚歎。由此可知,讚歎是讚歎善法,不讚歎惡法,但是禮敬沒有善惡之分。「禮敬」與「讚歎」的差別很大,我們要曉得。

Sudhana’s visiting fifty-three wise teachers3 is a very good example of this. Normally, when he visited a wise teacher, he would first pay respect and then praise the teacher. But among the fifty-three wise teachers, all of whom he showed respect, there were three he did not praise. The first of the three teachers was a Brahman named Jayosmaya, who symbolized ignorance. The second was a king named Anala, who symbolized anger. The third was a woman named Vasumitra, who symbolized greed. These three teachers symbolized greed, anger, and ignorance. To greed, anger, and ignorance, Sudhana showed respect but did not praise.

F-rom this we understand that when we praise, we praise the good, not the bad. But when we pay respect, we do not differentiate between good and bad. There is a significant difference between praising and paying respect. We must realize this.

「十願」,在此地就不一一細說,大家可以參考《無量壽經》全套的錄音帶。普賢菩薩十願是無量行願的歸納,而阿彌陀佛說四十八願,則比十願詳細多了。但是,最重要的是「具足」,我們有沒有具足?若有信、有行而無願,則不能往生西方極樂世界。若真希望這一生往生西方極樂世界,必須把《無量壽經》四十八願當作早課,天天念、時時學,把四十八願變成自己的本願,那就「具足」了。四十八願就是無量行願,普賢菩薩「十大願王」、「四弘誓願」皆在其中。

I will not go into detail about the Ten Great Vows, as I have done so elsewhe-re.

The ten vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva sum up infinite practices and vows. But the forty-eight vows of Amitabha Buddha are more detailed than the Ten Great Vows. However, the most important of all is to be “replete.” Are we “replete”? If we have belief and practice but no vows,4 then we will not be able to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land. If we truly want to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land in this lifetime, we must chant the forty-eight vows in the Infinite Life Sutra as our morning cultivation every day. By chanting them every day and constantly learning them, we make the forty-eight vows our causal vows.5

「安住一切功德法中」,「一切功德法」就是「南無阿彌陀佛」。隋唐時代,古大德曾經將釋迦牟尼佛四十九年所說的一切法,做了一個比較。四十九年所說的一切法,哪一個第一?大家公認《華嚴經》第一,《華嚴經》是經中之王,根本法輪。《華嚴經》再與《無量壽經》比較,《無量壽經》第一,因為《華嚴經》到最後普賢菩薩「十大願王,導歸極樂」,《華嚴經》才圓滿。《無量壽經》自始至終都是講西方極樂世界,所以它是《華嚴經》的歸宿、總結論,是第一之第一。夏蓮居居士將《無量壽經》分為四十八品,哪一品第一?四十八願第一。這是阿彌陀佛自己敘說的,是全經最重要的一部分。四十八願中,哪一願第一?古人說,第十八願第一。何以說第十八願第一?第十八願就是臨終十念往生,這就說明名號功德不可思議,所以這一句名號就是「一切功德法」。

“All . . . steadfastly dwelt in the virtues and merits of all dharmas.” “The virtues and merits of all dharmas” is “Namo Amituofo.” During the Sui and Tang dynasties, eminent monks compared the sutras f-rom the Buddha’s forty-nine years of teaching to determine which was number one. They agreed that the Avatamsaka Sutra was number one. It was the king of the sutras and the fundamental Dharma-wheel. Next, they made a comparison between theAvatamsaka Sutra and the Infinite Life Sutra and concluded that the Infinite Life Sutra was number one. Why? At the end of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Samantabhadra taught the Ten Great Vows and guided all beings to the Western Pure Land, and with this the sutra was perfectly completed. On the other hand, the Infinite Life Sutra, f-rom the beginning to the end, describes the Western Pure Land. Hence, the Infinite Life Sutra sums up and fulfills the final goal of the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Infinite Life Sutra is thus number one of all number ones.

Mr. Xia Lianju divided the Infinite Life Sutra into forty-eight chapters. Which chapter is number one? The chapter with the forty-eight vows. The forty-eight vows were spoken by Amitabha Buddha himself and are the most important part of the entire sutra.

Of the forty-eight vows, which vow is number one? The eminent monks said that the eighteenth vow is number one. Why did they say so? The eighteenth vow says that through mindful chanting of “Amituofo” ten times at the end of one’s life one can attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land. This illustrates the inconceivability of the merit of the name of Amitabha Buddha. This is why the name of Amitabha Buddha is “the virtues and merits of all dharmas.”

而名號展開是四十八願,四十八願展開是《無量壽經》《無量壽經》展開是《華嚴經》《華嚴經》展開是釋迦牟尼佛四十九年所說的一切法。這一句名號是總綱領,我們抓到這個綱領,所有一切佛法、一切經典、一切法門就統統掌握到了。

When the name of Amitabha Buddha is elaborated on, we have the forty-eight vows. When the forty-eight vows are elaborated on, we have the Infinite Life Sutra. When the Infinite Life Sutra is elaborated on, we have theAvatamsaka Sutra. When the Avatamsaka Sutra is elaborated on, we have all the sutras f-rom Sakyamuni Buddha’s forty-nine years of teaching. Therefore, the name Amitabha Buddha is the key guiding principle. When we master this guiding principle, we will thoroughly understand the entire Dharma, all the sutras, and all the Dharma doors.

「安住」,就是把心住在「阿彌陀佛」上。所以,真正修行人想在這一生當中,穩穩當當快速成就,這一句佛號足夠了。念經、讀經是為明理,道理明白,事實清楚,信心建立了,其他的自然就放下了。不僅釋迦牟尼佛,一切諸佛教化眾生,皆以此法門為第一。淨土法門難信易行,有大福大智慧的人方能相信。小乘如舍利弗智慧第一,大乘如文殊菩薩智慧第一,不是智慧第一的不能相信。

“Steadfastly dwelt in” means focusing one’s mind on Amituofo. For a true practitioner who wants to have a fast, assured success in his or her practice in this lifetime, the Buddha-name is all he or she needs. One chants and reads the sutras to understand the truth. Once confidence is established upon one’s understanding of the principles and the truth, one will naturally let go of everything else.

Not only did Sakyamuni Buddha use this method as the foremost method to teach all beings, but all Buddhas do the same also. The Pure Land method is hard to believe but easy to practice. Only when one has great good fortune and great wisdom will one be able to believe this method. In the Theravada tradition for example, Sariputra6 is foremost in wisdom. In the Mahayana tradition, Manjusri is foremost in wisdom. Therefore, if one is not superior in wisdom, one cannot believe this method.

我們想想,我們的智慧不但比不上文殊菩薩,連小乘舍利弗尊者也比不上。但是我們對淨土法門一聽就歡喜、相信、接受,且願意修學,從這一點來說,我們不比文殊菩薩差。他選擇了這個法門,我也選擇了這個法門;他是智慧的選擇,我也是智慧的選擇。「安住」是心安理得,理事通達明瞭,心才真正安住在「南無阿彌陀佛」之中,這就是「一切功德法」。

Let’s think about this. Not only can our wisdom not compare with that of Manjusri Bodhisattva, it cannot even compare with that of Elder Sariputra of the Theravada tradition. But when we hear the Pure Land method, we are immediately delighted, believe and accept it, and are willing to learn and practice it. F-rom this viewpoint, we are not inferior to Manjusri Bodhisattva. He chose this method, so have we. His choice was a wise one, so is ours.

“Steadfastly dwelt” means our minds will no longer waver once we understand the principles and the phenomena of the truth, after which our minds will truly settle in “Namo Amituofo.” This [Namo Amituofo] is “the virtues and merits of all dharmas.” 7

二、以定慧力。降伏魔怨。

2. With the power of meditative concentration and wisdom, they subdued Mara’s enmity.

「魔」不是指魔鬼,是指種種苦難折磨,因為人世間的折磨太痛苦了,比遇到鬼還可怕。

“Mara” does not refer to demons but to various afflictions that torture and torment us. The sufferings in this world are so painful that they are even more terrifying than encountering demons.

「怨」是怨家,佛經講「十惡怨家」。「十惡」是身造殺、盜、淫,口造妄語、兩舌、綺語、惡口,意造貪、瞋、痴,這是我們自身內的十種怨家。眾生不肯捨離這些「魔怨」,起心動念、所作所為,與怨家愈結愈深,難分難解,造作惡業,所以今生苦,來生更苦。因此,輪迴總是一世不如一世,一世比一世往下沉。這是千真萬確的事實,只要冷靜觀察,不難發現。

“Enmity” refers to enemy. The sutras talk about “ten evils the enemy.” The ten evils are the physical activities of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; the verbal activities of using false speech, divisive speech, harsh speech, and enticing speech; and the mental activities of greed, anger, and ignorance. These are the ten kinds of enemies within us. All beings are unwilling to do away with these “Mara’s enmity,” so the beings’ every thought and every deed strengthen and increase the ties to them. The knot of enmity becomes very hard to unravel and evil karmas continue to be committed. Consequently, the beings suffer in this lifetime and will suffer even more in the next lifetime.

This is why when one transmigrates within the Six Paths, one’s future lifetimes will get worse and worse, and one will sink into a lower and lower path. This is the truth. If we observe calmly, it will not be hard to see this.

「降伏魔怨」,就是教我們如何提升自己的境界,不再墮落。《金剛經》云:「降伏其心。」此地講的「魔怨」,就是《金剛經》講的「心」。什麼心?十惡之心、妄想心、煩惱心、顛倒心。如何降伏?定、慧。所以,不能不修定,有定方能生慧。佛教誡一切眾生,是以「戒定慧」三學為宗旨,因戒得定,因定開慧。

“Subduing Mara’s enmity” is to teach us how to elevate our states and how not to retrogress any more. The Diamond Sutra talks about subduing one’s mind. This mind [in the Diamond Sutra] is “Mara’s enmity” mentioned above. What is this mind? The mind of the ten evils. The mind of wandering thoughts. The mind of afflictions. The mind of delusion. How do we subdue it? With meditative concentration and wisdom.

Therefore, we must cultivate meditative concentration. Only when we have meditative concentration will wisdom arise. When the Buddha taught all beings, his aim was for people to achieve the Three Learnings of precept observation, meditative concentration, and wisdom. Observation of the precepts leads to the achievement of meditative concentration. And f-rom meditative concentration, wisdom arises.

「定」是佛法修學的中樞,「戒」是手段,持戒的目的是得定,而定是開慧的手段,智慧才是真正的目的,因為唯有智慧方能解決一切問題。定功能伏(降伏、控制)魔怨,慧能化解魔怨。所以,智慧現前,十惡就變成十善,魔怨變成大善知識、大功德主,這就轉凡成聖、轉苦為樂、轉十法界為一真法界。因此,佛法任何宗派、法門,皆以智慧為修學的目標,以定為修學的樞紐。

Meditative concentration is pivotal to one’s learning and cultivation of Buddhism. Observation of the precepts is the means to achieve meditative concentration. Meditative concentration is the means to uncover wisdom. Uncovering wisdom is the true objective because only wisdom can help us solve all problems. Meditative concentration helps us suppress, subdue, and control Mara’s enmity; wisdom helps us eliminate it. Therefore, when our wisdom comes forth, the Ten Evil Karmas will become the Ten Virtuous Karmas and one’s enemies will become one’s great teachers and great supporters. This way, one is transformed f-rom an ordinary person into a sage; suffering is transformed into happiness; and the Ten Dharma Realms are transformed into the One True Dharma Realm.

For every Buddhist school and Dharma door, wisdom is the objective of cultivation and meditative concentration is the key.

念佛法門是八萬四千法門中最殊勝的方法,可是我們念了這麼久,為什麼沒有得到定?原因是沒有戒的基礎。所以,不僅念佛三昧不能現前,功夫成片都沒消息。由此可知,持戒太重要了。「戒」,絕不僅是五戒、十戒、菩薩戒、比丘戒。

The Buddha-name chanting method is the most wondrous method of the eighty-four thousand methods. But after chanting the Buddha-name for a long time, why haven’t we achieved meditative concentration? The reason is that we do not have the foundation of precept observation. So, how can we attain the Buddha-name Chanting Samadhi when we have not even achieved Constant Mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha? F-rom this we can see that observation of the precepts is immensely important. The precepts, however, are not limited to the Five Precepts, the Ten Precepts, the bodhisattva precepts, or the monastic precepts.

有些人自以為持戒很嚴,覺得自己了不起,常常批評「這個人破戒,那個人犯戒」。若是這樣持戒,永遠不會得定,因為看到別人破戒,他就生煩惱,心不平、不清淨。六祖大師說得好:「若真修道人,不見世間過。」自己淨戒清淨,別人清淨不清淨,一概不理會,保持自己心地清淨。若自以為自己持戒,天天看別人過失毛病,如此修行,充其量僅得一點來生福報而已。而且不一定是人天福報,因為來生未必能得人天身。畜生道也有福報,如有錢人家的寵物。餓鬼道也有福德鬼,如城隍、土地公、山神,天天有人祭祀。修行修到這種地步,豈不叫冤枉!

Some people think that they are abiding strictly by the precepts and thus feel great about themselves. They often criticize others for breaking the precepts. If this is how they “observe” the precepts, then they will never achieve meditative concentration. Why? Because when they see others transgressing the precepts, afflictions arise, and their minds become disturbed and are no longer pure

Master Huineng put it aptly, “If one is a true practitioner, one will not see the faults of others.” We should strictly adhere to the precepts with a pure mind. We should not be concerned whether others are pure or not, we should just keep our own mind pure.

If we think that we are observing the precepts and yet daily sees the faults of others, such cultivation will bring, at the most, only a little good fortune for us in the next lifetime. In addition, the good fortune may not be enjoyed in the human or heavenly paths because we may not be reborn as a human or heavenly being.

Even animals, such as the pets kept by wealthy families, can have good fortune. In the path of hungry ghosts, there are also those with good fortune. For example, city gods, village gods, and mountain gods all enjoy offerings f-rom people every day. [Good fortune notwithstanding,] when one’s cultivation leads one to such a plight, all of one’s efforts will be wasted!

中國自古以來,無論在家、出家,修行人往往三年五載就有成就。為什麼我們修行二十、三十年都不成就?如果說我們的聰明智慧不如古人,我不相信;說福報不如古人,我更不相信。到底問題何在?古人聽老師的話,現在人不聽老師的話;古人有「師承」,現在人把老師丟棄了。

Since ancient times in China, there were practitioners, both lay and monastic, who succeeded in their cultivation after three to five years of practice. Why is it that we don’t have any success today, even after twenty or thirty years of effort? If we say that it is because our intelligence or wisdom cannot compare with theirs, I don’t believe it. If we say that our good fortune cannot compare with theirs, I believe it even less.

What is the reason? It is that the practitioners in the past listened to their teachers, but nowadays we do not. They inherited their teachers’ lineage; today, people forsake their teachers.

一個老師指你一條路,這是一條成功的道路,這稱為「師承」。老師奠定你修學的基礎,這是老師的責任。你的基礎沒有奠定,決定不能離開老師,如小孩不能離開父母一樣,到長大成人可以獨立時,才放他出去。從前修學,得根本智方能離開老師。根本智就是定,得到定,慧就現前,定慧力量現前,方可出師,出去參學。如善財童子五十三參,他在文殊菩薩處得根本智,就是此地講的「以定慧力」,他出去五十三參就是「降伏魔怨」,這時才有能力。

When one’s teacher indicates a path for one, a path that will lead to success, [and if one follows that path accordingly,] one then “inherits the teacher’s lineage.” The teacher would help one lay a foundation for learning and practice. This is the teacher’s duty. If one does not have the foundation, one must not leave the teacher, just like a child must not leave its parents. When the child grows up and becomes independent, then he or she will be allowed to leave home.

In the past, one could leave one’s teacher only when one had attained fundamental wisdom. Fundamental wisdom is meditative concentration. When one attains meditative concentration, wisdom will arise. When empowered with meditative concentration and wisdom, one will then be allowed to leave one’s teacher and travel all over to learn f-rom others.

Take Sudhana’s visits to fifty-three teachers, for example. Under the guidance of Manjusri Bodhisattva, he attained fundamental wisdom, which is “with the power of meditative concentration and wisdom.” With this ability, he was then allowed to visit fifty-three teachers. His visiting all fifty-three teachers is “subduing Mara’s enmity.”

五十三位善知識就是社會上的各行各業,歸納成五十三大類。所以,各行各業、男女老少都可以接觸,你接觸是在成就後得智,圓滿智慧。接觸好的境界,你不動心,不起貪心;惡的境界,你也不動心,不受它干擾、誘惑,這是成就「定」。接觸之後,樣樣清楚明瞭,這是成就「慧」。所以,「定慧力」是我們修學真實的根本。

The fifty-three teachers represent the fifty-three categories under which all walks of life are subsumed. In other words, we can interact with anyone, whether male or female, young or old, and f-rom any occupation. By doing this, we are perfecting our acquired wisdom.

Remaining unaffected and giving no rise to greed in a favorable situation, and remaining unmoved and not tempted in an adverse situation—this is attaining meditative concentration. In any situation, when one understands and is clear about everything—this is attaining wisdom. Thus, the “power of meditative concentration and wisdom” is the true basis of one’s learning and practice.

但是現在「師承」斷了,我們唯一的方法就是以古大德為老師。我這一生最大的幸運,就是沾到了一點師承的邊緣。過去我在台中求學,我的老師李炳南老居士非常謙虛說:「我的學問道德不夠資格做你的老師。」他勸我以印光法師為師,印光法師是他的老師。印光法師不在了,他的著作在,一心一意依照《文鈔》修學,就是印光法師的學生。讀大師的書,聽大師的教訓,依教奉行,這就是師承。我們修淨土,以阿彌陀佛為老師,阿彌陀佛在哪裡?在《無量壽經》《阿彌陀經》《觀無量壽佛經》。我們一心一意認真研讀這三部經,就是以阿彌陀佛為老師,做阿彌陀佛的好學生。

Nowadays the teacher’s lineage is broken. The only remedy is to take an ancient accomplished practitioner as our teacher.

In my life, my greatest good fortune was coming into contact with the tradition of a teacher’s lineage. When I was studying Buddhism in Taichung, Mr. Li Bingnan said modestly, “With my knowledge and virtue, I am not qualified to be your teacher.” He advised me to take Great Master Yinguang, who was his teacher, as my teacher.

Great Master Yinguang had already passed away, but his writings were still available. Single-mindedly learning and practicing the Collection of Great Master Yinguang’s Writings is becoming his student. Reading the great master’s books, following his teaching, and practicing accordingly is inheriting the teacher’s lineage.

As Pure Land practitioners, we take Amitabha Buddha as our teacher. Whe-re is Amitabha Buddha? He is in the Infinite Life Sutra, the Amitabha Sutra, and the Visualization Sutra. When we single-mindedly and earnestly study these three sutras, we are taking him as our teacher and are his good students.

而讀經是修戒定慧,在讀誦時只讀經不思考,老實念就是修「戒定慧」。戒律的精神是「諸惡莫作,眾善奉行。」「諸惡莫作」是小乘戒,「眾善奉行」是菩薩戒,一切戒律都不外乎這兩句。我們恭恭敬敬一心一意的讀,無妄想、分別、執著,「諸惡」就沒做了,可見得小乘戒圓滿了。經典是佛從真如本性流露出來的真言,沒有比這個更善的,所以讀經就是「眾善奉行」,所有一切戒律都圓滿了。一心讀誦,沒有妄想,沒有懷疑,沒有雜念,就是修「定」;從頭到尾念得字字清楚,沒有念錯,沒有念漏,就是「慧」,就是根本智。所以,念經是戒定慧同時齊修,如果一面念一面想經的意思,就把戒定慧破壞了,就與念世間書一樣。因此,讀經是修戒定慧,禪宗打坐是修戒定慧,密宗持咒也是修戒定慧,只是方法不一樣,功夫成就無二,正是「法門平等,無有高下」。讀經要專心讀誦,研究要另找時間,不要與讀誦混在一起,否則就全盤失敗。

Chanting the sutras is cultivating the precepts, cultivating meditative concentration, and cultivating wisdom. When chanting a sutra we simply read the words, without thinking of their meaning. Chanting sincerely this way is cultivating the precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom.

The spirit of the precepts is “do nothing that is bad and do everything that is good.” “Do nothing that is bad” is the essence of the Theravada precepts. “Do everything that is good” is the essence of the bodhisattva precepts. In all the precepts, nothing falls outside of “do nothing that is bad and do everything that is good.”

When we respectfully and single-mindedly chant a sutra without wandering thoughts, discrimination, and attachments, then nothing bad is being done. The Theravada precepts are fulfilled. The sutras are words of truth flowing f-rom the Buddha’s true nature. Nothing surpasses these words in virtuousness. Therefore, chanting a sutra is “doing everything that is good.” All the precepts are thus fulfilled.

Single-mindedly chanting a sutra without wandering thoughts, distractions, or doubt—this is cultivating meditative concentration. F-rom start to finish, enunciating clearly every word without mistake or omission—this is cultivating wisdom: fundamental wisdom. Thus, chanting a sutra is cultivating simultaneously the precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom.

If we think about the meaning of the sutra while chanting it, it will ruin the cultivation of precept observation, meditative concentration, and wisdom. This is treating the sutra as a worldly book.

Chanting a sutra is cultivating the precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom. As is sitting in meditation in the Zen school and reciting mantras in Tibetan Buddhism. The methods are different, but the results to be attained are the same. As it is said, “All Dharma doors areequal, and no one Dharma door is superior or inferior to another.”

When chanting a sutra, one should focus on chanting. If one wants to study it, one should find another time to do so and should not mix chanting with studying. Otherwise, one will fail completely in both.

到定慧力成就,在日常生活當中,處事待人接物一切都很順利,障礙自然會減少,就能將十惡的念頭轉成十善,魔怨才能真正降伏。佛法常言:「破迷開悟,離苦得樂」,這個效果才真正現前。

When one attains meditative concentration and wisdom, the daily interaction with people and handling of matters and affairs will go smoothly. Obstacles will decrease naturally. One will be able to turn the ten evil thoughts into the ten virtuous thoughts and truly subdue Mara’s enmity. Buddhism often talks about “breaking through delusion and attaining enlightenment, and leaving suffering behind and attaining happiness.” These effects will truly manifest.

三、常以法音。覺諸世間。

3. Constantly, they used the Dharma sound to awaken all the worlds.

「法」,方法、理論。

“Dharma” refers to methods and principles.

前面兩句是自修、是自利,這一句是利他。我們自己修學得到了好處、利益,也要以自己修學的經驗,為人演說,幫助別人像我一樣有成就。「諸世間」是指九法界眾生。

The teaching in the previous two excerpts is for self-cultivation and self-benefit. The teaching in this excerpt is for benefiting others. When we benefit f-rom our learning and practice, we should use the experience, through words and our examples, to help others achieve the same results we have.

“All the worlds” refers to the beings in the Nine Dharma Realms.

四、洗濯垢污。顯明清白。

4. [They] . . . cleansed dirt and pollution, and revealed cleanliness.

這一句是比喻。我們讀經、念佛的目的,就是把「心地、思想、見解」的污染洗乾淨,才能「顯明清白」,恢復清淨心。

This excerpt is a metaphor. The purpose of our chanting the sutras and the Buddha-name is to cleanse the contamination in our c-haracter, thoughts, and views so as to “reveal cleanliness”—to restore a pure mind.

《無量壽經》的經題是「佛說大乘無量壽莊嚴清淨平等覺經」,「清淨、平等、覺」就是修學的綱領。我們學什麼?就是修清淨心、平等心,修覺而不迷。「清淨、平等、覺」是一而三,三而一。所以,淨宗著重在清淨心,心淨則土淨。我們與西方極樂世界阿彌陀佛的感應,就是在清淨心。

The full title of the Infinite Life Sutra is Buddha Speaks the Mahayana, Infinite Life, Adornment, Purity, Impartiality, and Enlightenment Sutra.

Purity, impartiality, and enlightenment are the guidelines for learning and practicing. What are we learning? We are learning to (1) cultivate a pure mind, (2) cultivate an impartial mind, and (3) be awakened and not deluded. Purity, impartiality, and enlightenment are one in three and three in one. The Pure Land school focuses on the cultivation of a pure mind. When the mind is pure, the land will be pure. The connection between us and Amitabha Buddha of the Western Pure Land lies in a pure mind.

就現前時代而言,污染太嚴重了,全世界都在大聲疾呼要提倡環保。科學家也提出了警告,地球的污染若不能改善,五十年之後,將不適合人類生存。由此可知,污染相當嚴重。雖然大家都在努力改善,但所收效果甚微。原因何在?世間人只知其當然,不知其所以然,一切環保工作都是治標不治本。「本」是人性的污染,所謂心理的污染、思想的污染、見解的污染、精神的污染,這比環境的污染更為嚴重!

In the present age, pollution is an extremely serious problem. The whole world is urgently calling for protection of the environment. Scientists also warn that if the pollution on earth is not abated, then in fifty years it will not be a fit place for the human race to live. F-rom this we can see how serious pollution is.

Although many people try to reduce pollution, their efforts produce very little results. Why? Because they only know the phenomena—they do not realize the noumenon [the underlying root cause of pollution]. All the efforts for environmental protection provide only superficial solutions: they do not get to the root cause. What is the root cause? It is the polluted human nature—a polluted mind, polluted thoughts, polluted views, and polluted feelings. This kind of pollution is much more harmful than environmental pollution!

在二十年前,有一天我在方東美先生家中,正好遇到教育部兩位官員來拜訪方先生。當時台灣政府正在提倡「復興中華文化運動」,這個官員向方先生請教:「有什麼方法能將復興文化的工作落實?」方先生態度非常嚴肅,一句話不說,冷靜好幾分鐘後,說了一句:「有!」教育部的人很歡喜,於是請教方先生是什麼方法。方先生說:「台灣所有的報紙、雜誌停刊,電視、廣播統統關閉。」他們一聽搖頭說:「這個做不到。」方老師說:「這些報紙、雜誌、電視、廣播天天在污染人性,在破壞中華固有的文化,只要這些東西存在,復興文化就收不到效果。」所以,我常勸導念佛的同修不要看報紙、雜誌、電視,就是為了保護自己的清淨心。

Twenty years ago, when I was at Mr. Fang Dongmei’s home one day, two officials f-rom the Department of Education happened to be there on a visit. At that time, the Taiwan government was promoting the revival of Chinese culture. An official asked Mr. Fang, “Is there a method that can revive Chinese culture?” Mr. Fang looked very serious and was silent for several minutes. Then he said, “Yes, there is.” The officials happily asked him what the method was. He said, “The publication of all the newspapers and magazines in Taiwan must stop. All the television and radio stations must also shut down.” Upon hearing this, they shook their heads. “Impossible!” they said. Mr. Fang explained, “Newspapers, magazines, and television and radio programs are polluting the human nature and destroying traditional Chinese culture every day. As long as these things exist, efforts to revive Chinese culture will be ineffective.”

This is why I often urge Buddha-name chanting practitioners not to read newspapers and magazines or to watch television, in order to shield their pure mind.

五、心常諦住。度世之道。

5. Their minds constantly and truly dwell on the Way to enlighten all beings.

「諦」是真實。「四弘誓願」第一條「眾生無邊誓願度」,我們能常有這個念頭,就是「度世之道」。

The first of the Four Great Vows is “Sentient beings are innumerable; I vow to help them all.” Always having this thought is “the Way to enlighten all beings.”

這是「發菩提心」,心常住在四弘誓願上。

This excerpt is about generating the bodhi mind—a mind that constantly abides by the Four Great Vows.

但是我們要想度眾生,先要成就自己。四弘誓願不但是大菩提心,而且是我們修行證果的次序、階段。願為先導,願為動力,修行需要從斷煩惱下手。親近一位老師,就是幫助你斷煩惱,等你煩惱斷盡了,魔怨沒有了,定慧成就了,然後再「法門無量誓願學」。

But before we can help others, we must first succeed in our practice. The Four Great Vows not only refer to a great bodhi mind, they also spell out the sequence for our cultivation and attainment. The vows are our guide as well as our driving force.

Cultivation should start with the eradication of afflictions. Following one teacher helps us eradicate afflictions. When we eradicate afflictions completely, Mara’s enmity is no more, and we accomplish meditative concentration and wisdom. We next learn the boundless Dharma doors.

現在人不要四弘誓願的前面兩願,一開頭就要「法門無量誓願學」,結果學了沒幾天,就到處宣揚他是什麼佛、什麼菩薩再來的,這是胡說,自欺欺人。

People today forsake the first two of the Four Great vows and start with the third one, “Dharma doors are boundless; I vow to master them all.” Many of them spend only a few days learning and then start telling others that they are incarnates of a certain Buddha or bodhisattva. This is complete nonsense. They are deceiving themselves as well as others.

從前學佛先要五年學戒,「戒」是老師的教誡,至少是五年的時間跟一位老師學習,成就定慧,奠定根基,然後才能廣學多聞。從前的社會比現在單純多了,還要用五年的時間遵守老師的教誡,我們生活在今天的染污的環境,比過去嚴重十倍都不止,所以從前五年學戒,現在則要五十年學戒。但是假若你說要學五十年,大家就不想學了。

In the past, when one started to learn Buddhism, one had to first learn the precepts for five years. The precepts refer to the teachings and rules set by the teacher. One had to spend at least five years learning f-rom one teacher before one was able to achieve meditative concentration and wisdom. With this foundation [achievement of meditative concentration and wisdom], one was allowed to learn extensively. In the past, when life was much simpler than today, five years were required for following the teacher’s rules. Today, the living environment is very polluted, more than ten times what it was before. Therefore, if five years were required in the past, fifty years are required for learning the precepts today.

But if we tell everyone to do so for fifty years, then no one will want to learn Buddhism.

所以,最好是一句「南無阿彌陀佛」念到底,見到阿彌陀佛後,再廣學多聞。因此,我們現在學習四弘誓願要分成兩個階段,現前只修「眾生無邊誓願度」和「煩惱無盡誓願斷」,到了西方極樂世界,再修「法門無量誓願學」和「佛道無上誓願成」,才是正確的。如果現在就學後頭兩句,一定障礙念佛的功夫。因此,現在死心塌地念阿彌陀佛,往生淨土,才是當務之急!

Therefore, it is best to mindfully chant “Namo Amituofo” unceasingly, and only after we meet Amitabha Buddha do we learn extensively.

Our cultivation of the Four Great Vows should be divided into two stages. Presently, we cultivate only the vows of “helping innumerable sentient beings” and “ending inexhaustible afflictions.” When we get to the Western Pure Land, we then cultivate the vows of “learning boundless Dharma doors” and “attaining supreme Buddhahood.” This is the correct sequence. If we start with cultivating the last two vows, this will obstruct our Buddha-name chanting practice. This is why it is a matter of immediate urgency to wholeheartedly chant “Amituofo” and seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land.

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  1. Regrettably, we do not have an approved English translation of the Infinite Life Sutra.—Trans.
  2. One of the ten titles of the Buddha.—Trans
  3. The accounts of Sudhana’s visits to the fifty-three wise teachers are f-rom a chapter in the Avatamsaka Sutra—Trans.
  4. Belief, vow, and practice are the three requisites for being reborn in the Pure Land.—Trans.
  5. Causal vows are vows made before one becomes a Buddha—Trans.
  6. Both the Elder Sariputra and Manjusri Bodhisattva are listed in the assemblies listening to the Amitabha Sutra and the Infinite Life Sutra.—Trans.
  7. These are the virtues and merits of Buddhahood.—Trans.

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