1991 佛七講話-1 Day 2

Ven. Zhiyu’s Dharma Talks for Buddha Recitation Seven-Day Retreat, First Term, 1991

Absorb All Six Senses and Continue with Pure Thoughts

       Today, I will talk about how to adjust to group practice in the recitation hall, and also give you some advice for practicing at home after the retreat.

During the seven-day retreat, recite the Buddha’s name in unison with the group, and remain concentrated on the recitation; do not allow your mind to wander around. Do not allow Six Dirts to distract you. Six Dirts refer to the fields of form, sound, odor, taste, touch, and thought; they can disturb a dharma practitioner’s mind. If you are not disturbed by them but completely concentrated on the recitation of the Buddha’s name, you are “absorbing all six senses and continuing with pure thoughts.”

To absorb all six senses is to guard the six sense faculties from being tainted by Six Dirts. These six dharmas (phenomena) are named six dirts if you allow them to taint your mind; if not, they are just six dharmas.

Then, how to distinguish them? What are Six Dirts? And what are six dharmas? If form, sound, odor, taste, touch, and thought are allowed to taint the mind, they are Six Dirts. Dirt, so-called, implies taints to the mind. When detached from the mind, form, sound, odor, taste, touch, and thought are just six dharmas. Dirt implies taint to the mind; dharma implies cause-and-condition, as the saying that goes “A dharma does not arise alone; it arises from causes and conditions.”

Knowing the law of cause-and-condition, one can transcend the world and act in accord with conditions. As dharma of cause-and-condition, it does not taint the mind yet. Once you let form, sound, odor, taste, touch, and thought taint your mind, you are not going along with conditions, but attaching to them instead.

Anything arising from causes and conditions is a designated name, which has no nature of its own. For example, cloth comes to be because of fibers, and “cloth” is just a designated name, having no self-nature. If cloth had its own nature, it should still exist without fibers.

Therefore, these six dharmas are but objective images, empty of self-nature. The ancient Indian scholar Nāgârjuna ever said, “All phenomena that arise from causes and conditions, I would say, are nonbeing.” Once you know this truth, your mind would not be tainted.

During the seven-day retreat, you should absorb your six senses, that is, absorb all your six sense faculties. Your eyes should not drift along with sights, your ears, not with sounds, and your mouth, particularly, should not talk imprudently. Otherwise, you will be disturbed by these six dirts. In the Buddha-recitation hall, it is only when you recite the Buddha’s name with eyes closed and eyelids down, will you accumulate merits. Being disturbed by Six Dirts, you produce no merits.

For this reason, if the hall proctor tries to correct your behavior, you should obey, for your own sake. Attaching to Six Dirts brings about Six Destinies—the six kinds of rebirth. You are in the cyclic transmigration in the six destinies, and now reciting the Buddha’s name for emancipation, so, if someone means to set you right, you should feel greatly indebted. Frankly speaking, the one who corrects you and reminds you deserves immeasurable merits, and you should not react with arrogance.

In the Buddha-recitation hall, join your palms and whole-heartedly recite the Buddha’s name in unison, and you may omit the counting so that all participants help one another to achieve.

When back home to practice Buddha recitation, you should always count. If you do not count, your mind will drift aimlessly, and the Buddha-name being addressed superficially will bear no strength; no one dares to tell whether you can attain rebirth (in the Pure Land of Amitābha Buddha). That is because you recite the Buddha’s name mindlessly, without a genuine calling. He who is mindful of the Buddha gains rebirth; without the Buddha’s name in mind, how can you be reborn there?

As for counting methods, let me give you an example. Usually, people move one bead of the rosary for each calling, which is also good and precise. But, counting that way, it is difficult to go fast.

If you count by the method of “3, 3, and 4 as a round,” moving one bead for each round, you can go much faster. That is, count your callings to 3, and then back to one and count again to 3, and back to one and count to 4, which add up to 10, and then move one bead forward. This makes you go faster.

But note that you do not recite casually and vaguely. You should do it proficiently, with exactly ten each round, no slacking off. Therefore, you need to practice often in your normal days to reach such proficiency.

If you doubt it, you may try it back at home; it is awkward in the beginning, but will turn out natural when you get skilled. So, in this way, the more proficient you get, the more precisely will you count. At first, counting up to a thousand, there may be a slack part, after you become proficient, you will get to ten exactly before moving each bead. You will count more and more precisely, and finally make an achievement. As for other Buddha recitation expedients, there are still a lot that you will find out over time.

Also, as you recite the Buddha’s name, you should have proper state of mind. A Buddha-recitation practitioner should be eager for birth and death, yet most people do not understand the meaning of “eager for birth and death”. “Birth” refers to the eagerness of seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land; “death” refers to the eagerness of renouncing the Sahā (the secular world that you have to endure). Therefore, to be eager for birth and death is to joyfully anticipate rebirth in the Western Pure Land and readily abandon the Sahā.

I hope every one practice this way when you leave the retreat. It is a little different from the way you practice in the Buddha hall, as in the Buddha hall you rely on the merit of all the participants; when you practice alone at home, you rely on your own merit.

What I talked about today is based primarily on the teaching in the sutra Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva’s Perfect Knowledge through Recollection of Buddha: “Absorb all six senses and continue with pure thoughts.”

Your mind if tainted by Six Dirts is called “the mind of objective images of Six Dirts.” Why are they called objective images? These six dirts have no substances; they are only images. How can they taint your mind? Being unsubstantial, empty, you may ask, how can they taint the mind? They taint your mind because your mind clings to the objects. Actually, to absorb all your six senses is to absorb your clinging mind.

To tell you one more thing today: although the Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva’s Perfect Knowledge through Recollection of Buddha teaches to absorb all six senses and continue with pure thoughts, it is consistent with the teaching of Amitābha Sutra. To absorb all six senses is to be “undistracted,” and to continue with pure thoughts, to be “one-minded,” thus, the saying “one-minded undistracted” in Amitābha Sutra. Those who recite the name of Amitābha Buddha to attain “one-mindedness undistracted” will obtain rebirth in the Western Pure Land.

However many the rules you are asked to observe in the Buddha hall, they are meant to make you attain to the undistracted one-pointed mind, and to acquire rebirth in the Western Pure Land. Do not consider they are strict and demanding as they are stipulated for you to gain benefits. They have been contrived deliberately beforehand in order to benefit those who come to the monastery to practice Buddha-recitation meditation. Do understand and be cooperative.

Now, let’s recite Amitābha Buddha.