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Ode to the Sages of Pure Land

 

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The following poem is a slightly abridged and liberal translation of the poetic opening verses from Ch.31 of Upasaka Xia Lian Ju’s Infinite Life Sutra:

Wisdom as vast as the boundless sea,
Bodhi as high and wide as Meru peak,
Their halos bright beyond sunbeam,
Surpassing the moon’s luminous gleam.
Their hearts white and serene like snowy hills,
Their patience as enduring as the fields,
Their calm minds like pristine waters
That wash away the defiling dusts,
Their profound insight as keen as fire,
Burning away all worry and fraught,
Non abiding and breezing o’er any mire,  
Sounds of Dharma: striking lightning,
Warning the deluded to wisdom ripen, 
Pouring forth truth like soothing sweet dew,
Their grace like canopies of Linden trees, 
Cool shades of respite for you and for me.   

Poem released into Public Domain.

If you would like this Ode and my other Pure Land and religious poems in print, here is the free and Public Domain pdf file:   poems-of-pure-land

Requiem Hymn

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By the Grace of Amitabha,
You shall transcend the Samsara,
This mantra is your Sila,
Your Samadhi, and your Prajna,
The shield that demons fear,
The call that all yearn to hear,
The sword that slices the Gordian knot
Of lustful desire and crushing fraught.
Thus, with one heart in Him seek,
Seek rebirth in Ultimate Bliss,
And save yourself from the abyss
Of the dismal infernal Naraka  
By resolving for with resolute faith
The profound Dharma of Amitabha,
His Forty Eight Vows and Grace! 
Dither not and seek in haste,
Leap high above cruel Dukkha,
Beyond evil karma and King Yama,
And become a Bodhisattva
Standing atop the lofty Lotus Dais
Beside Amita Tathagata,
Beside merciful Avalokitesvara,
And by the wise Mahathamaprata,
And at that time your mind will know
That you have always been Amitabha,
And your birthright is to enjoy,
Now and forever, the eternal delight
Of the Land of Sole and Lasting Light.

Poem released into Public Domain

Simplicity is Bliss- A Takeaway Formula

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Buddhism is really very simple, if only we could let it be. The Dharma is not so much about studying volumes of texts and scriptures, but of skillfully adapting and implementing the essence and formula into our small daily routines. Sila (virtue) leads to Samadhi (meditation and mental tranquility) which will eventually allow our innate Buddha-nature to shine forth (i.e. Prajna). This simple Threefold Training was taught by the Buddha as the underlying formula behind the entirety of his teachings.

The easiest way to accrue merits and cultivate is through sutra recitation. Once in the morning and once in the evening. By reciting sutras, we are practicing virtue as our mind, speech and body would be in accord with propriety. By reciting sutras, we are practicing Samadhi as our concentration is focused upon each single word, one after another. By reciting sutras, our minds are in accordance with profound wisdom. Thus, by sincerely cultivating sutra recitation, we are rectifying our minds, bodies and speech through the Threefold Training.

We can regularly recite any sutra, mantra or scripture we like. However, once we pick one, we should focus exclusively and unceasingly on it. I would personally recommend the eminent Upasaka Xia Lian Ju’s Path to Pure Land prayer. It is a simple, succinct and poetic text  filled with the most important and profound  passages from the  Larger Infinite Life Sutra, and combines prostration, recitation and Buddha-name chanting into one easy prayer that could be done in half an hour. The Venerable Master Chin Kung has even said that this consolidated prayer is the hope of humanity for thousands of years to come.

Here is my free and Public Domain translation:

PDF File Download:   path-to-pure-land

Scribe Version:

Moreover, I would like to recommend my three following Public Domain articles. The first one details how Confucius’ Eight Steps in the Great Learning is similar to the Buddha’s Threefold Training, and is not obscure like how many translations make it out to be but easily implemented by all.

Translation of a profound article outlining the secret meaning of Confucius’ Great Learning:

https://archive.org/details/TheSecretOfConfuciusGreatLearning

Essay on the profound connection between Buddhism and other religions:

https://archive.org/details/ThePurposeOfMonotheismAndItsFuture

Article showing how astute statecraft can help us live wiser and manage our karma:

https://archive.org/details/THEBODYISNOTYOUBUTYOUAREITSKINGTHEPARABLEOFLIFEANDKARMAASSTATECRAFT

Poem and post released into Public Domain

Lamentations of a Slow Learning Sinner

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If only I hadn’t been a phoney,
If only I wasn’t so ornery,
If only I had lived more holy,
Maybe I wouldn’t now be so lonely,
And abandoned to infamy.

If only I were not so haughty,
Not so quick and eager to demean,
If only I hadn’t sneered so gloatingly,
Perhaps I wouldn’t have been
So coldly betrayed by my cronies,
And reduced to such lowly misery.

And if only I did not so boldly
Lust after that slender trophy,
I wouldn’t now be a bereft nobody,
Deprived of my loyal humble wife—
The only one ever true to me
In my entire life………

Now I know……..if only I had just…..
……….just……….just……………..
I wouldn’t be …..be drifting in regret

Today!

Poem released into Public Domain

Inspiration:

The inspiration for this poem is the above picture from the Eastern depiction of Hell , where one of the punishments for those who have spent their whole lives attached to impermanent temporal pleasures and affairs is to be made to watch the assets and wealth they have accumulated in life scatter in the course of impermanence after their deaths. Their anguish is their regret for not having been a better person and accumulated surplus merits and blessings for themselves and their still living wives and children.

Upasaka An Shi’s Discourse on Humane Living

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“I pity the clams in the basket,
who desperately yearn for moisture.
I pity the fish in the pot,
who are on the verge of asphyxiation.
When fish are gutted, they suffer immensely.
How could I do such a thing? “

-Song Dynasty Statesmen Su Tung Po

“If man does not harm the fauna, they would be free from fear.
They could be together like the luminous moon and the stars.”

– Ven Master Hong Yi

In this post, I would like to recommend my free and Public Domain translation of the eminent Qing era Upasaka Zhou An Shi’s famous FAQ scroll that points out the flaws of common arguments used to justify eating meat, and warns that chaos and war karma follows the shedding of animal blood:

Please read my free and Public Domain translation of the full text and discourse here:

Archive.org version (Download in PDF, Kindle, Daisy, plain text etc.)

This post, translated quotes and all post text/linked material are in the Public Domain

The Importance of Yin Virtue

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A hundred types of fortune and thousands of blessings rain down and arrive by the cartloads to those who cultivate virtue and merit with sincerity, modesty and genuine selfless compassion!

 

In this post, I would like to recommend my free and Public Domain translation of the Taoist/Buddhist/Confucian scripture containing the teachings of the Lord Superior Wen Chang (Eastern Deity of Wisdom). It is a profound and short treatise that teaches important principles of cultivating good deeds and how to avoid common pitfalls such as generosity and narcissistic pride growing hand in hand. Apart from the translation, there are succinct commentary under relevant passages and edited historical accounts of these teachings in practice at the end. The text is below:

Archive.org Version (download pdf, kindle, daisy format etc.)

Moreover, here is a 2 page free and Public Domain pamphlet I wrote detailing passages from the Shurangama Sutra that address the importance of vegetarianism:

Archive.org Version

Animals are also sentient beings with profound spiritual potential, and even the Bible actually has strong arguments against eating meat (contrary to common thought), thus we should do our best to be humane whenever possible.

Lastly, as Lord Superior Wen Chang’s teachings stress interfaith harmony, I would like to recommend my free and Public Domain essay on the matter:

Archive.org Version

 

Post and poem released into Public Domain

 

The Moral of Gattaca (1997)

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Sterile waters have no fish, and pedants fail to see the big picture

Maxims of the Sages

Personally, I consider the film Gattaca (1997) to be among the finest films ever made. The relevant story, beautiful demeanors, moral message, retro aesthetic ambience and foresight perfectly weaves together to form a thought provoking and classic film that has stood the test of time.

For those who have not seen it, the film centers around the determined and mentally gifted protagonist Vincent Anton Freeman’s quest to overcome a world rampant with genetic discrimination—where the best embryos are genetically enhanced for a price (and the imperfect ones discarded) ; a not too distant future where job interviews consist of only a blood test to peek inside the applicant’s genetic profile. The best jobs go to the “valids” (i.e. those whose health and genetic profile are favorably above the threshold) while the rest (such as Vincent) are identified as “invalids” due to medical conditions or hereditary illnesses etc., and are relegated to the underclass of menial laborers.

I won’t go further into the plot details as reviews, clips and synopsis are freely available on the internet. I strongly recommend watching it.

However, I feel the film excellently embodies the moral maxim cited at the beginning: “Sterile waters have no fish, and pedants fail to see the big picture”(1)

Life is not about intolerance or pedantic prejudice and discrimination, but of broadmindedness and discernment. Success and sturdiness comes from using different people in accordance with their inclinations. To allow people’s strengths to shine while making allowances for their weaknesses.

In the Qunshu Zhiyao Volume II (3), it is recorded that even wastrels and scoundrels when given a post that suits their talents could become surprisingly constructive people.

On the other hand, pedantic selectiveness or partiality begets only one thing: Extinction.

According to Liao Fan’s Four Lessons (2):

Narrator: Next, we will see why Liao-Fan has no children. Liking cleanliness is a good thing, but it can become a problem if one becomes obsessive about cleanliness. There is an old saying, “Life springs from the dirt of the earth and water too clean often harbors no fish.”

Liao-Fan: The first reason why I feel I do not deserve a son is that I am overly attached to cleanliness, resulting in the lack of thoughtfulness for others…

Narrator: …harmony is the cultivator of all life.

Liao-Fan: But I have a quick temper and easily become angry….

Narrator: …loving-kindness is the basis of reproduction and harshness is the root of sterility.

Liao-Fan: I overly guard my own reputation and cannot sacrifice anything for the sake of others.….”

Thus harshness, pedantry, pride, discrimination, over selectiveness and prejudice will lead only to extinction through attrition. We must emulate Heaven and Earth, which is used as a metaphor to describe the all-embracing and boundless in Eastern thought. The petty mind will sacrifice a lot of positive potential that could otherwise have bloomed into wondrous fruits had the chance merely been bestowed.

Therefore, I believe  we ought to be tolerant in our lives, and wisely shepherd the strengths of others and skillfully tolerate their weaknesses. We should shun pedantry and consider the big picture.

To finish off, I would like to recommend Alfred Brendel’s passionate and sublime rendition of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No.3, which is the same piano piece used in the movie’s beautiful concert scene:

This blog post is released into the Public Domain

Sources:

My Public Domain posts on

(2) Liao Fan’s Four Lessons 

(3) Ancient Eastern Philosophy

(1) My free and Public Domain translation of Maxims of the Sages

Prose Poem: Malice Behind the Mask

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Hogarth’s Country Dance

The esteemed guests streamed into the candle lit foyer
And dissolved into a sea of idle courtly ritual,
Landowners, majors, magistrates, slender maidens
And fair matrons all slithered into the modestly gilded hall so
Discreetly adorned by understated gluttony. Their lofty manners,
Their shield ; their feigned courtesy, disguise for icy hearts.

Only a thin veneer of silky decorum coats their acrid tongues, 
For them, honest men are but emotional beasts to be
Snared and skinned by slander most gleeful and vicious,
Leaving in their wake their perverse masterpieces—
Hollow shells that would make a taxidermist proud.

Petaled confetti is set adrift upon powdered faces and intricate wigs lost in Laughter, Chatter, and the Clatter of soles ; and as Measured gaits of the Minuet Mingled ‘Mongst The Music and Morphed into the Milieu, well bred ladies politely pricked with veiled Slights of envy, and the men indulged their ornery humor, turning giddy at the sight of Misery, their openly secret delight.

Meandering through the dense meadow of decadent masters are the servants who carry Silver platters of pheasants and plum wine. Their obedient stony facades hide hearts That lust after larceny. Birds of the same feather, separated only by station.

Alas! Heaven cries as it looks down to judge…….King Yama lets out a sigh and asks:

In this hall of monsters, who is modest still?
In this world of wickedness, who is upright still?
In this land of lies…..who is honest still?

Comment

Poem inspired by the Taoist Treatise of Response and Retribution moral maxims that warn against: Hiding cruelty and malice behind a gentle facade  (offense 66, page 14),  To envy those doing well, wishing for them poverty and disgrace (page 11, offense 42), To indulge in excess revelry and luxury (offense 52, page 12and to Secretly plot to hurt the good and kind (Offense 2, page 4).

The Treatise also teaches that based on the severity of an offense, the offender will be punished by Heaven by having either a period(s) of 3 months or 12 years shaved off his lifespan and accompanying misfortunes (i.e. legal, disasters, illness etc.). Likewise, virtue will lead to an increase of lifespan (by periods of 100 days or 12 years) and various blessings such as wealth, health and prosperity etc.

Public Domain translation with commentary of the Treatise of Response and Retribution:

https://archive.org/details/Treatise2014Edition

Public Domain  2017 Liturgy Version of the Treatise of the Illustrious Sage on Response and Retribution

It is highly recommended that all daily recite this liturgy version of the Treatise. Doing so will eradicate evil karma and draw in a myriad of blessings.

Poem and post released into Public Domain

A Foundational Text: The Woe and Weal of the Faithful Sutra

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Swirling around in a cauldron 
Filled with lust, avarice and vice,
Fools indulge in the forbidden
Fruit of loot and cruelty and wrath,
They bathe their hearts in evil which
Paves the way to pain and torment,
And so the tree of sin takes root,
Watered by greed and fed by hate,
Growing tall under glooming clouds,
Woeful decay is its blossom
And infernal rebirth the fruit!

 

Life is fleeting and passes quickly. The Ancient Sages say that: “Centuries old trees are common but centenarians on the street are a rare sight indeed.”

Therefore, it is very important to have proper views to act as a guiding foundation. Our actions and the attendant karma piles up quickly and will decide our lives for many rebirths to come. Thus, in Eastern Buddhism, the 阿難問事佛吉凶經 (THE ANANDA REQUESTS THE BUDDHA’S INSIGHT INTO THE WOE AND WEAL OF THE FAITHFUL SUTRA) serves as a short and succinct foundational text that furnishes beginners with basic and key principles that will prevent them from falling astray unwittingly, and thus fail to enjoy the supreme benefits of cultivating the Dharma.

Please read my free and Public Domain translation here:

PDF version:

the-ananda-requests-the-buddhas-insight-into-the-woe-and-weal-of-the-faithful-sutra

Scribe Version:

 

Please also remember to read Buddhism as an Education (By Master Chin Kung) and my short essay titled The Parable of the Guest’s stay  (both included at the end of the translation).

In the Infinite Life Sutra, it is recorded that all of our good and evil deeds are recorded accurately and impartially by demigods, and that these books of our balance of good and evil will decide our circumstances of rebirth for the lives to come.

Thus, it is very important that we zealously accumulate virtues and good deeds while reining in and rectifying our faults.

If our books look like Don Giovanni’s infamous catalog in this scene (masterfully performed by Otto Edelmann):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXAbe6yh5zM

Then we would be in big trouble when impermanence strikes and judgment comes (Tuba Mirium, with excellent tenor solo by Peter Schreier):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-i5S4uXlNg

On the other hand, the person who eschews vice and embraces virtue has nothing to fear and plenty to look forward to.

All rights of this post that belong to me (i.e. poems, translations, post text) are released into Public Domain