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Episode 4 Part 1: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

The next Bodhisattva is “Observation of Non-Dwelling Bodhisattva” [观无住菩萨].

Whatever Venerable Chin Kung taught above are all fundamental conditions to be reborn in Western Pureland. Though we may know what we should do to reborn in Western Pureland, we still lack of effort or ability to perform all these conditions. We may ask ourselves whether our worries and bad karma have lessened or our wisdom has increased. In another words, we have learnt the Dharma and chanted daily. However, we are not confident to reborn in Western Pureland.

At this stage, the Buddha teaches us Observe the Non-Dwelling [观无住].  观 means to observe the world. It’s definitely does not mean think. You will fall into your consciousness when you start to think. Observation does not require to use your consciousness.

How do we not use our consciousness? Firstly, we need to know how does the consciousness appear to be like. Next, we need to know what is the function or effect of consciousness. Our mind is ālaya-vijñāna [阿赖耶识] as it stores and gives rise to all seeds of phenomena and knowledge. Our six organs come into contact with six states of senses (namely sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and perception), have left very deep imprint. The function of alaya-vajnana is to leave behind deep imprints. When we contact the six senses, mental discrimination develops. With discrimination, clinging arises and hence our greed, which leads to feelings. This will give rise to afflictions or poison to our mind.  The strong clinging (to cling to things as real) is Manas-vijnana [末那识] – the 7th of the eight consciousness.

In order to have the right effort, we must not use our consciousness based on the above. In our daily life, we should not have mental discrimination, clinging and also have no imprints in our mind, similarly to the way we conduct ourselves and the way we get along with other people. This also applies to our eating habits and the way we dress.

Why does the Buddha require us to have Non-Dwelling? Non-Dwelling is Good Thought.  E4:49min.

Observation of Non-Dwelling Bodhisattva” [观无住菩萨] reminds us of the teaching  from the Diamond Sutra [金刚经] that One’s mind should not attach to anything and our true mind will arise (quote from Buddhanet).

Everything and even every Dharma, we must not have the thought of gain and loss &, acceptance and rejection . We will feel liberated. This is Non-dwelling. Non-dwelling is Nirvana.

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Episode 4 Part 1: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

Venerable Chin Kung read out the following phase of the sutra:

「又贤护等十六正士,所谓善思惟菩萨,慧辩才菩萨」

The meaning of the sutra is very deep and profound. We have to realize it very attentively and carefully so that we can benefit from its merits and virtues.

Initially, Mr Xia Lian Ju [夏蓮居] divided the sutra into 37 sections. After revising the edition, he divided  the sutra into 48 sections. The first 2 chapters were initially in 1 chapter. Why did  Mr Xia separate out from Worthy and Protective Bodhisattva into another section? The reason is that these 16 Bodhisattvas are the main pulse of the Infinite Life Sutra.

Whether you make achievement in your practice will depend on your ability to protect your mind and love yourself. His name teaches us that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will always protect and help those who sincerely generate their Bodhi Mind – the great compassion mind to help all beings (quoted from Buddhanet)

The next Bodhisattva is Good Thought Bodhisattva [善思惟菩萨].  There are 3 points that Venerable Chin Kung brings out. Firstly, we have to remember to repay 4 types of kindness. Secondly, always think of the sufferings of infinite sentient beings. When we see the sufferings of others, we should also see our own sufferings. Most people see the faults and sufferings of others very clearly and forgotten about themselves. We have to bear in mind that others are sentient beings, so are we. If others suffer from their own mistakes, so do we. We should ask ourselves how can we prevent all these suffering in the future.

Thirdly, always think of our numerous karmic obstacles [业障]. From our infinite past lives, we had committed infinite crimes. Venerable Chin Kung says that Singapore is a land of fortunes. We are very blessed to be able to live in Singapore. However, what happen when we exhaust all our good fortunes? Do we create more fortunes while we are enjoying ourselves? Or do we committed more sins? We must always think of all the above 3 points.

We must always have good thoughts. What is the meaning of Good [善] as in the name of Good Thought Bodhisattva? Every action, speech and thought that follow and not go against the teachings of the Infinite Life Sutra is called Good [善].

All teachings are passed down from Dharma teachers of the past. Who is our good friend or good teacher we can learn from? The person whom you have great respect and admiration for will be your teacher. Even though he may not be able to make any achievement in his practice, you will not only succeed in your learning but surpass your teacher’s. The reason is that you listen and follow his instructions. Strong faith is the fundamental source of attaining enlightenment.

We also need to know how to avoid wrong views. Some of the ways include not talking on the phone, not listening to radio broadcast, not watching TV programmes , not reading newspaper. Your mind will be  quieter and peaceful. Those lay-Buddhists who have family and career should read and watch what they need to. It is best not to know any unnecessary information or news. Always maintain a peaceful mind. This is called the Good Thought [善思惟].

Always be true and sincere to others. Do not be a hypocrite i.e. the way you speak is different from the way you think.

To have good thoughts is not sufficient to perfect our practice. We must always recite the name of Amitabha Buddha and vow to reborn in Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. In that way, our practice is considered perfect and satisfactory.

Should any call you on the phone, you can still answer the phone. Venerable Chin Kung taught that when the other party keeps talking, you keep reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha. You are filling his mind consciousness with the Buddha’s name. This is an excellent method.

The next Bodhisattva is Wise Eloquence Bodhisattva [慧辩才菩萨]. Spoken language is an important method to communicate with one another. To be fluent in speech and writing, one needs to be wise. Without wisdom, it is best not to talk and write because one may commit great wrongdoings. With wisdom, we can see matters clearly and therefore we can teach the others to the right path.

If one has the skill of eloquence, he should utilise it for good cause. He should study Dharma and then spread the Dharma teachings. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will teach this Infinite Life Sutra and advise people to reborn in the Western Pureland.  If we have this skill, we should also spread this teaching of Infinite Life. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will give us the help and blessing.

The next Bodhisattva is “Observation of Non-Dwelling Bodhisattva” [观无住菩萨]. E4: 42mins.

Episode 3 Part 5: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

The beginning of this sutra listed the names of Bodhisattvas and Arhats. Each name depicts the meaning of the sutra. If you are a wise person, you will understand the full meaning of the whole sutra by just seeing these names, without reading the sutra further.

贤护正士 is Worthy and Protective Bodhisattva. 正士 is another name for Bodhisattva. Another name for Buddha is 大师.

The next 15 Bodhisattvas mentioned in the sutra were all lay persons.  All their names signify the whole content of this sutra. Please note that these 15 Bodhisattvas are not from our Saha World.

The next Bodhisattva is Skilful in Contemplation or Good Thought Bodhisattva [善思惟菩萨]. The meaning is very deep and difficult for us to comprehend and practise. Therefore, Venerable Chin Kung lower the standard to fit our understanding. To simply put it, Skilful in Contemplation or Good Thought means to express gratitude and repay kindness. We should always contemplate on the kindness of the Triple Gems, all sentient beings, our parents and our country. Everyday, we recite the dedication of repaying the kindness of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and our parents.

The subject of understanding and repaying kindness [知恩报恩]is taught in one of the 8 topics of Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra 大般若经 (alternate name is Large Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom). One must know what is the kindness of parents, teachers and the country’s protection. A person is very pitiful when he has no nationality because nobody will respect him and no country will protect him. We have to be thankful for what we have.

All sentient beings give us interdependent merits and virtues. They provide for us labouriously our daily needs, like the clothes we wear and the food we eat. What do we do to repay their kindness? Very importantly, we must repay the kindness of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, which encompasses all types of kindness.

Secondly, in order for our compassion to develop, we must think of the sufferings of all sentient beings. When we see the sufferings of sentient beings, we will want to help them. We will have to practise diligently and seriously to help all sentient beings. If we have no achievement in our conduct and capabilities, how can we help them? We should not slack in our practice. This is called the Bodhicitta, real great compassion.  When we can break off from our worries and eliminate our karmic obstacles so as to relieve the sufferings of infinite sentient beings, we are considered as Good Thought Bodhisattva.

Episode 3 Part 4: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

In the southern direction is Virulha [ 增长天王] – Patron of Growth. He signifies progress. Our morality, integrity and wisdom must improve every moment. Dharma requires us to progress, not lag behind. Virulha signifies making great effort to progress.  He is depicted holding a sword which represents wisdom, like Manjusri Bodhisattva. Using the sword to cut off all worries. The East and South Kings teaches us wholesome lessons. However, how do we attain these goals? The next 2 kings teaches us the methods.

Virupaksa [广目天王] of the West and Nagas holds a pearl and a snake around his hand, meaning He who sees all. Virupaksa teaches us to observe this sophisticated society.  We should observe others and absorb their experience and good qualities. At the same time, correct others’ faults. In this way, we can progress ourselves.  He is depicted holding a snake which signifies changes and the other hand holding a pearl, meaning that the pearl is never changing. This society is always changing. The snake will also follow the pearl, revolving around it. This shows that we should revolve the state of mind and not let the mind changes us.

The Northern king is called Vessavaṇa [多闻天王] – He who hears all. He teaches us to listen attentive to others, not talking.

Therefore, to attain Wisdom, we must observe and listen more attentively. Then Western and Northern Kings signify observation and listening ie. to go on field study and make observation, in order to accomplish one’s real knowledge. Therefore, we must read and study sutra and history books. We can then understand and learn from the experiences of success and failure of the past histories. There must be a reason for every rise and downfall of a country, family and individual.

The Northern King is depicted holding an umbrella. Its implication is to prevent pollution or contamination, especially on the mind. Our mind is originally pure. However, it is contaminated with greed, anger, delusion and laziness. The mind is full of doubts.

The images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhat and Heavenly Gods depict deep educational meaning. They are not for us to simply pray. They are giving us lessons of reality, so that when one sees them, one will know how to conduct oneself and his wisdom will develop. E3: 73.30min

Episode 3 Part 3: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

If you know how to take good care of yourself, you are practising the path of Bodhisattva. Buddhism blossomed when it was spread to China. There were many great teachers in ancient China who were Bodhisattvas. The latest was Venerable Ying Guan [印光大师]. He was Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva from Western Pure Land. From historical records,  Shakyamuni Buddha came back as Master Zhi Zhe [智者大师].  Master Yongming Yanshou [永明延寿] was Amitabha Buddha. 傅大士 was Maitreya Boddhisattva. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came to China, responding to the Buddhist followers. They took good care of China with reasons. There were many people in China who were easily awakened and these people had close connections with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Therefore, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came to this land.

If one goes to a regular Buddhist temple, you may see that there are offerings made to temple of Heavenly Kings [天王殿], namely the 4 Heavenly Kings and Maitreya Bodhisattvas.  What is the meaning of making offerings to the them? They are also known as the Dharma Protectors. It is to signify that we must protect our mind and teach us the ways to protect ourselves.  The teachings of Dharma is not necessarily taught in words. The form of Maitreya Bodhisattva in China is different from India. It is an appearance of a monk with a big belly. It signifies that when we learn Dharma, we must open up our heart, be broad-minded and not be petty or narrow-minded. Next, Maitreya Bodhisattva is always laughing. This signifies benevolence. 63

Besides Maitreya Bodhisattva are the 4 Heavenly Kings. At the East is Dhatarattha [持国天王] – means Watcher of Land or State. It implies that we must watch over our state of mind and to uphold our morality. He signified that how we should maintain a happy family, a good career,  a stable society, a prosperous country and world peace. When you see Dhatarattha, you will think of all the above.  How do we maintain all these? He is shown holding a musical instrument, pipa. He shows us that in order to achieve the above goals, we must learn the Middle Path. The string of pipa means Middle Path. Pipa does not produce sound if the string is too loose and breaks if it is too tight. The ways of how we conduct ourselves, how we get along with people and the matters we come to close contact with, are indicated in the pipa. We must use the Middle Path – not too rush or anxious and not too relaxed. Therefore, we must pay respect to him for giving us such a valuable lesson.

In the southern direction is Virulha [ 增长天王] – Patron of Growth. He signifies progress. Our morality, integrity and wisdom must improve every moment. Dharma requires us to progress, not lag behind. E3: 63min.

Episode 3 Part 2: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

Whatever the sutra teaches us that we should do, make serious and great efforts to do it. If the sutra teaches that we should not do, we must decide not to do it. This is the right behaviour and attitude of a good student of Amitabha Buddha.    In this life, we must practise in-depth the teachings of this sutra.

We need to guard and protect our mind. We must protect our Action, Speech and Mind. Firstly is reflect on our speech, before, during and after speaking. Do not ridicule on others’ faults. When others criticize, humiliate, malign, frame or even try to kill us, we should not complain or grumble. We should not have a single thought of hatred. We have to keep a calm and steadfast mind. This will lead you to enlightenment.

As Venerable Ying Guan had taught us. If we have to encounter such obstacle, we should accept it willingly and not put the blame on others. This will eliminate our bad karma or karmic hindrance. If we have such thoughts, the person who harm us will not be guilty. Instead this person has accumulated good merits. Why? It is because he has helped us to perfect the great Paramitas. At the same time, he also helps us to eliminate our karmic hindrance. This is great kindness bestow to us. However, if we hate him and retaliate against him, the cycle of hatred and revenge will never end. With good thoughts, everyone is like a friend who will lead you to the right path. With bad thoughts, even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not a friend to you.

Therefore, we must repay ingratitude with kindness, so as to perfect our practice and path. This is the right way to protect yourself. We shall always praise others regardless what others say of us. We shall also repay others with kindness. We must understand what is kindness. What kindness does the person show to me when he slanders or harm us? He helps us to eliminate hindrances. This is kindness. He is our benefactor. E3: 51.49min.

Episode 3 Part 1: The Infinite Life Sutra 大乘无量寿经

During this age, we must know how to give ourselves the worthy protection. We must chant and read the sutra daily. We must have the right contemplation and comply according to Dharma teachings, so that our action, speech and thought will not slip into error. With a meditative mind and wisdom, we will not be easily affected by external conditions.  The Buddha mentioned that the teachings of evil teachers were as many as the sands of Ganges River during our Dharma-ending period. Can we recognise who are the evil teachers? Anyone or anything that can influence or tempt us away from the right teachings. For example, when you walk into a supermarket, your greed will develop when you see new products. The thoughts of gain and loss will develop. Television programmes, movies and advertisement will tempt us. Even while walking on the road, you may see T-shirts of youngsters printed with devils and monsters images. These are evil teachers.

Who is the greatest evil teacher? The Television or Internet. Programmes about violence, sex and horrors can easily influence our mind, especially the children’s. There is no way to stop all this. How do we protect ourselves? Venerable Chin Kung advised his fellow students not to watch television programmes, listen to radio and read the news. Do not go to places unnecessarily. Things that are not necessary to know, do not implore. More troubles will develop when one get to know more people. This will keep our mind calm and stable.  That is the reason why in ancient times, the places of practice were in some remote mountains.  It is called 阿兰若 ālánruò in Indian language or place of quiet, still and remote.

We have to generate our Bodhi mind (refers to help all sentient beings to attain Enlightenment). We live for all sentient beings, to be of service to all sentient beings. Such a meaning life we can choose to lead. However, we do not take credit for what we have done. Our mind is clear and peaceful.

When generating a Bodhi mind – refers to help all sentient beings to attain Enlightenment (Bodhicitta in Sanskrit) , we must put our moral conduct as priority. Moral conduct is breaking away from worries. We must let go of fame and benefits for ourselves.   We must give up the 5 sins – Wealth, Lust, Fame, Sleep and Gluttony.

One may say that Venerable Chin Kung is very fortunate to meet his teachers who had taught and guided him. Who can guide us? Let the Infinite Life Sutra be our teacher and guardian.  It is more complete and perfect than his 3 teachers. If you are a student of Amitabha Buddha, you will have respect from other Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. We follow exactly what the sutra teaches us. This is the right attitude of Amitabha Buddha’s student. In this life, it is sufficient to follow only the teachings of Infinite Life Sutra. When can we then expand our knowledge? When we reborn in Western Paradise. When we arrive at Western Paradise, we can learn all kinds of Dharma teachings. Now, we cannot learn other Dharma teachings because we may confuse our minds. To protect ourselves, we need to generate a Bodhi mind and cut out our worries. E3: 47.00min