1991 佛七講話-1 Day 7
Ven. Zhiyu’s Dharma Talks for Buddha Recitation Seven-Day Retreat, First Term, 1991
Change Your Personality to Overcome Delusory Thinking
Sentient beings’ karmic habits since innumerable eons have been pulling them from getting free. Karma is volitional action; habit is the tendency.
What is a habituated tendency? Take the wind blowing through a tree for example. After the wind has stopped blowing, the tree is still swaying—that is the habituated tendency. Where do sentient beings show their habituated tendencies? Every individual has a different personality—some are faithful and kind, while some others are crafty and treacherous—which can all be traced back to their own habituated tendencies.
This explains how sentient beings constitute their delusive thoughts. If a Buddha-recitation meditator is unable to do as well as he would wish, it is because his mind often wanders away to ponder over something while he is reciting the Buddha’s name. His calling of the Buddha arises from streams of delusive thoughts, which he fails to subdue through effortful recitation—all due to his karmic habits. If he does not pay attention to it in this life, he will suffer even more in the next life.
I was once asked: “I tend to fall into mind-wandering during Buddha recitation, what should I do?” This is the only way: Recite the Buddha’s name sincerely, and recite a lot. You may repeat the Buddha’s name a hundred times all mixed with messes of thoughts; try a thousand times and there may be two or three callings without a thought. Work hard this way everyday, and over time your mind will turn clear and pure. But there is one thing: you should not think of me against others, and right against wrong. Upon discrimination of self and others, right and wrong, conceptualization continues, and that means thought arising in the mind, and that causes you the cycle of birth and death.
Furthermore, now that you have known karmic habits show up in one’s personality, when you find a bad disposition in yourself, promptly remind yourself to correct it. In the beginning, you need to do it intentionally, that is, attentively, and over time, you will behave naturally and your disposition will get rectified. When the day comes, your previous karmic habits will be gone, and you naturally will not lose yourself in delusive thoughts when practicing Buddha-recitation.
For mind wandering in thinking, there are also a few expedient antidotes. Upon getting up in the morning, be mindful that you do not start up thinking. At night, when you awake from sleep, recite the Buddha’s name immediately, for if you start to think, the deeper you get involved, the harder for you to fall asleep, then you will suffer from insomnia. Recite the Buddha’s name on each awakening, and you will get back to sleep soon.
Today, the seventh day, I told you the methods to counteract delusory thinking. To counteract delusory thinking, sincerely speaking, you need to change your personality, for personality is formed by karmic habits in the past. Although you recite the Buddha’s name a lot, if you do not change your personality, you can barely benefit, and in addition, you are in danger, becoming more and more debased day after day. If you leave your personality unaffected and perform unwholesome deeds extensively, you are probably to lose the standing as a human being. Therefore, be vigilant. Paying vigilance means to activate focusing attention, a term defined in the Consciousness-only teaching.
What the Buddhadharma teaches is that giving rise to thought is not the problem, but staying unaware is. Focusing attention means to be aware. In the worldly sense, to focus your attention is to keep vigilant about yourself at all times.
The Buddha-recitation seven-day retreat will be complete today, and it is a rare occasion, for I am afraid you won’t have as many opportunities to practice at home. Remember to pay vigilance and work hard in this way to prevent mind wandering in delusory thinking.
In the Sutra of Infinite life, it reads, “Keep recollecting the Buddha for all life long,” but some may doubt and say, “Is it not the case that the Sutra on Visualization (of the Buddha Infinite Life) says that with ten callings of the Buddha’s name one gains the rebirth? Why the need for a whole life?” It is a silly remark out of a brilliant person. We recite the Buddha’s name and we would keep reciting as long as we are alive. Therefore, stop and think about this: Without a whole life’s recollection of the Buddha, where do you expect the ten thoughts to come at the moment of death? Ten thoughts of the Buddha at the end of life come exactly from a whole life’s recollection.
The Chinese New Year is approaching when you get home. Do not just indulge yourself with good food, since in doing so you might harm living beings. Harming living beings hinders your rebirth to the Western Pure Land. Everyone remember:
“The unwholesome deeds committed in the past
Are due to greed, hatred, and delusion with no beginning;
They derive from the body, speech, and mind,
And for all of which I hereby repent.”
Repentance means not to commit again hereafter.
Congratulations to you all, for this year’s seven-day retreat is complete, and you have all made an achievement. Do not look down on the seven-day Buddha-recitation retreat; while Śākyamuni Buddha was alive, an old man, having unintentionally uttered “namo Buddha” at the Buddha Kāśyapa’s time, was able to encounter the Buddha Śākyamuni and attained to the fourth stage of enlightenment because of the calling of Buddha. A casual calling to Buddha can result in such great merit, not to mention the recitation of Buddha in an all-out effort for seven days! Therefore, congratulations to you all, you have completed all the merits.
Today, the last day, I will not say too much. Now, let’s recite Amitābha Buddha.