The Buddha’s Masterplan

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Beneath the sea of glistening stars,
Between the ethereal evening air,
Lies a forest of glowing dreams,
But as diverse and rich as they are,
None escape the same Moonbeam.

Under the lucent morning glow,
Roll waves of raving emotions,
Turbid fortunes and cruel woes,
The burning craving of billions,
Yet the same Sun illumes them all.

Princes, beggars and pretenders,
All dance their own tango with
Fortune’s jeering taunts and tantrums,
Each gambles to grapple with fate,
But upon the same soil they all tread.

The crown of a grand old oak
Casts a wide and mighty shadow,
Ruffling with a myriad of leaves,
Adorned by blooming blossoms
That sprout in spring and wither in winter,

With branches amber in autumn,
Green in summer, and lean and bare
In Saturn’s season of barren frost.
Yet for all its lush richness, it still rests
Upon one abiding unchanging trunk.

So even as human affairs steer here and there,
And wander and meander like wetland streams,
The timeless source remains the same,
For all ripe fruits return to Buddha’s root.

It is often asked why it is said that there are 84,000 different Dharma-doors (i.e. innumerable forms of Dharma). The answer is simple: Sentient beings are complex and have innumerable biases, different spiritual levels and varying aspirations.  Thus, it is not possible for one fixed form of teaching to suffice by itself. 

Therefore, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have not only spoken a rich collection of different Sutras, but have also manifested as the Sages and founders of different religions in order to teach those who could not yet accept the Buddha-dharma.

According to the Ven. Master Hsuan Hua:

“In Buddhism, he (Guanyin Bodhisattva) appears as a Bodhisattva; in other religions he often appears clad in white robes. In Christianity, he is the Holy Mother; he appears as the Holy Mother to teach and transform a certain category of beings. He appears in white robes and Christians call her Mother Mary, but actually she is Guanshiyin Bodhisattva manifesting in that form to inspire beings to bring forth a resolve that will lead them sooner or later to understand the Buddhadharma. Once they understand the Buddhadharma, they will bring forth the resolve for Bodhi. These are the endless miraculous functions and inconceivable states of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.”

-Ven Master Hsuan Hua’s 1996 Lecture “Guanyin, Guanyin, Guanshiyin” (Translated by the BTTS).

Despite this rich varied diversity, the purpose is all the same: To promote virtue and eschew vice, which is the key (i.e. the Sila of the Threefold Training of Sila, Samadhi and Prajna) to eventually developing faith in the Buddha-dharma. For a more detailed analysis, please read my following Public Domain essay:

https://archive.org/details/ThePurposeOfMonotheismAndItsFuture

Thus, interfaith harmony is important, and no one should be caught up in conflict or strife over superficial differences, for all roads lead home.

However, even though all roads (religions) lead to the Buddha-dharma, all of the Buddha-dharma and every Sutra are united by Amita Buddha’s Pure Land School, the easiest and most wondrous Dharma door, cultivated by both the brilliant and base. The only practical way to Buddha-hood in our current Dharma-ending age.

For an introduction to Pure Land Buddhism, please read my Free and Public Domain translations of the The Buddha Speaks the Mahayana,Infinite Life, Adornment,Purity, Impartiality, and Enlightenment Sutra, and the Path to Pure Land prayer:

Public Domain PDF version of Prayer: path-to-pure-land

 

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Master Yin Guang, 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land School.

Lastly, as Sila (virtue) is the fertile soil that Samadhi and Wisdom spring from, the Great Master Yin Guang (1861-1940), the 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land School, strongly recommended the Taoist Treatise of the Illustrious Sage on Response and Retribution. It is a short and succinct moral tractate that details the workings of karma, and concurs fully with the Buddha’s teachings on the fruits of virtue and vice. In fact, Master Yin Guang printed more copies of this Treatise than all the Buddhist Sutras he printed combined. Thus, I entreat everyone to heed this Treatise. Daily recitation of it can eradicate evil karma, draw in blessings and create the foundational purity of heart needed to seek Pure Land rebirth.

Free and Public Domain translation available here:

Treatise of the Illustrious Sage on Response and Retribution (English Liturgy Version 2017 Edition)

Poem, all attached texts, and post released into Public Domain

Second Recognition Award: You Nominate

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This morning, I was nominated by my good friend Susie for my second Blogger Recognition Award. I am very honored by her confidence in my work, and I admire her dedication to family, charity and friends. Furthermore, I strongly recommend everyone to look through her blog of helpful product reviews.

The acceptance rules and my suggestions/answers remain the same as in my first award post, but I would like to do something different with my 15 nominations. In the Ming Dynasty era Sagely text, the Maxims of the Sages, it is said:

As even the yellow river will one day turn clear, why wouldn’t your time come?

-Maxims of the Sages

Thus, I want the nominations to be about giving daylight to those who deserve it most, especially those who have so far been toiling in anonymity.

I call upon anyone who sees this post to nominate someone they know (preferably someone who advocates compassion, ethics,awareness, conservation and charity) for this award on my behalf. Please do so in the comment section (and give a small description of the nominee), and then inform your nominee of their award so they can do the acceptance post.

Lastly, here is a Buddhist poem I wrote about the Samsara for your reading pleasure:

Archive.org Version

The poem is free and in the Public Domain.

Blogger Recognition Award

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A day ago, I was nominated by a kind blogging friend, Ena of the prettyplusandproud blog for the Blogger Recognition Award. I feel extremely honored and I thank her very much! Moreover, I commend her dedicated social advocacy.

The Rules of the Award are as Follows:

  1. Thank the blog who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show the award.
  3. Share the experience that prompted you to start blogging.
  4. Give a piece of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Nominate 15 other blogs and personally inform them of their nomination.

How Pure Land Sutras started:

I started translating Chinese Mahayana Pure Land Buddhist sutras in 2014 after realizing that many important  sutras and scriptures that I had long taken for granted were mostly unavailable in the West. What had begun as a project for a short tractate turned into a delightful three year odyssey of translations, essays, poems, discussions  and correspondence with new friends. All of my posts, articles, translations, poems and essays are free and in the Public Domain, and I encourage other authors to donate their works into the Public Domain as well. In October of last year, a Dharma friend encouraged me to start a blog to serve as a doorway to my translations, and that is how this blog started.

Advice to New Bloggers:

My advice is that one should give voice to those who deserve it most: People in need, worthy causes, small non profits and so forth. It does not matter if you receive only 1 follower or 10,000 followers, as long as a worthy thing is being said, great merit will result.

I Nominate:

https://essenceofbuddhism.wordpress.com

https://dailyhealthpoints.wordpress.com

https://inavukic.com

https://rothpoetry.wordpress.com

https://herschelmann.wordpress.com

https://yassy66.wordpress.com

https://seenorway.wordpress.com

https://danielpaulmarshall.com

https://bitesizedhamma.com

https://kannonsmercy.wordpress.com

https://pnco.wordpress.com

https://afarminiceland.com

https://fauxcroft.wordpress.com

https://runningtozen.org

https://anonymouslyautistic.net

I would like to thank all the visitors and followers who have shown my blog so much support since its inception, I am truly touched by your kindness!

 

Terza Rima Pure Land Poem

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We are mired in a dark quagmire
Of cruel and murky quicksand, 
We dance no more to Kama’s lyre,

And vow for the Western Pure Land,
The eternal dawn of blissful Bodhi!
Arising by Amida’s hand,

A place of serene Samadhi,
Mani Jewels and Way Places,
And the most soothing purity,

Golden roads and glowing palaces, 
Purple robes and rows of jade trees,
All wrought by His Great Promises!

Lotus ponds of lasting respite for you and me,
And for all who from sin and iniquity leave!

 

Poem and post released into Public Domain

Recommended Public Domain Resources:

Beagle Meets Amita

Archive.org Free Pdf version download

Last Rites of Amitabha

Archive.org Free Pdf version download

Twilight in Paradise: Eastern Version of the Inferno

Ode to Ven. Master Hai Xian (1901-2013)

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Ven. Master Hai Xian (1901-2013)

My riches are here: Old robes and alms bowl,
With these I free myself from worldly toil,
With these I sow and plough the Dharma field,
And shatter all that wicked Maras yield,

My will is here: In wisdom genuine,
With resolve to soar beyond the three realms,
And sail across the cruel seas of greed
To halcyon shores of blissful Bodhi,

My heart is here: Amongst Tathagatas,
Firm in the lotus pond of Amita,
Day and night, it is wise within the Way,
Never in dust nor adrift and away.

I strongly recommend everyone watch the following biographic documentary (English subtitles) of Master Hai Xian’s inspiring and amazing life of cultivation and Pure Land rebirth:

 

Recommended Resources:

Infinite Life Sutra Translation and Intro

Beagle Meets Amitabha

Poem, linked texts and post released into Public Domain

Epic Poem: The Odyssey of Dharmakara

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Calligraphy: Sincerity, Serenity, Fairness, Enlightenment and Benevolence 

This poem was inspired by the opening chapters of the Infinite Life Sutra, which outline Dharmakara’s (Amitabha) creation of the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.

In a time before time began,
In a distant faraway land,
There reigned a wise sovereign
Most mighty and valiant,
Honored by many as the
World’s Bounty and Mercy.
Upon hearing the Dharma
Of Lokeshvararaja Buddha,
He melted into joyful repose
And cast aside desire’s shadow,
The fetters of the world’s cares,
And vowed to become the heir
Of the True and Utmost Way!
Thus, he abandoned his crown,
Robed himself a humble monk,
And marched forth upon the Way,
Cultivating through night and day
Until he became the renowned
Bodhisattva Dharmakara.
With profound wisdom peerless,
Faith and patience matchless,
He swiftly mastered the Dharma,
Rose far beyond the Samsara
And high above the snares of Mara.
In triumph, he sought the Buddha
And piously vowed and bowed before
Him, revering his great grandeur:

“The Buddha’s august demeanor
Is wondrous without compare,
His halo the ten quarters illume,
Bright beyond the luminous moon
And the lucent beams of high noon,
The World Honored One’s voice
Enlightens all beings to rejoice
Within the Dharma in native speech,
And he appears to all and each
In the body of their honored liege.
I yearn to emulate you and preach
Sermons of Dharma to everyone,
Without bounds like the shining sun,
To teach Sila, Samadhi and Viriya,
The profound and potent Dharma.
Wisdom as vast and deep as the sea,
Heart neither stained nor weary,
Gliding o’er oceans of sin and woe,
To the halcyon shores of Bodhi,
Untainted by gloomy wrath,
Unfettered by lustful avarice,
And blessed with serene Samadhi.
I shall follow the footsteps of the
Infinite Buddhas who precede me
And act as a great guiding light
For the masses, to be their sight,
Uprooting the temporal bequeath
Of birth, old age, illness and death,
Always generous and ever virtuous,
With diligence and eternal patience,
Forever within Samadhi and Prajna,
Faithfully abiding by the Six Paramitas,
Bestowing Bodhi upon the dull and lost,
And lifting Sages into the Buddha host!
As he who rains alms upon the Sangha
Is less than he who becomes a Buddha
Through single-minded faith,
I vow to in diligent Samadhi stay,
And glow brightly with everlasting light,
I shall build a splendrous paradise
Unrivaled across the universe entire,
To serve as a refuge of lasting respite
For those benighted in the Samsara!
With kindness I will shatter every klesha
Of every poor soul tortured by dukkha.
I shall not waver for I am determined
To shoulder every pain and burden,
So let the Buddha be my witness!”

After hearing Dharmakara’s great
And dauntless resolve and praise,
The Buddha arose from his Dais,
Gleaming with utmost admiration
For the one before him who is salvation
To the endless many lost in perdition.
He then declared:

“Your vows are not made in vain,
For even the oceans can be emptied
By but one who bails unceasingly,
And all its hidden pearls revealed,
What is there the sincere cannot attain?
I will show you the path and Way
To your glorious and imperious day!”

And so the Buddha parted the sky and
Revealed to Dharmakara every plane
Of rebirth, each and every Buddha Land,
All the galaxies, worlds and Sagely domains,
Revealing their cities, peaks, gorges and seas,
Their prairies, hills and fertile valleys,
The villas of devas dancing in divine weal,
The nature and condition of their peoples,
Unveiling their barren ghostly ruins, animal
Kingdoms and bleak narakas most infernal.
Uncovering all of their vices and virtues,
So that Dharmakara may with ease build
A pure and gilded land of wondrous bliss,
Free from evil and woe, a supreme harbor
Of every good found across the ten quarters.
The Buddha then said: “Pronounce your vows!”

“For the relief of all sentient beings,
Including those mired in the suffering
Of hellish, ghostly and beastly rebirth,
I have built a Pure Land of true mirth,
Open to all who are willing to share my
Merits and forfeit darkness for light!
I have paved for you fine gilded roads
Of precious stones, purple and gold,
For you I have filled rivers and lakes
With cool azure waters of soft ripples,
Swirling with fragrant flowers most graceful,
With beds of aurulent sand, and laid
Before you villas, pavilions and canopies,
Groves of beryl, emerald and agate trees
That ruffle and sway in the blissful breeze,
Adorned by jade leaves and scented petals,
Berries of Mani-jewels and crystal.
I give you clear skies and peerless paradise,
A glorious afterlife of endless delight,
With singing songbirds perched on amber arbors,
Humming hymns with lyrical harmony
And the most soothing of melodies!
I bless all who arrive in my land with
August, aurulent and ethereal bodies
Untainted by the greed, fear and foul odors
That flesh, desire and delusion harbors,
I bless thee with all the powers of Bodhi,
Its wisdom, eminence, bliss and glory,
Its serene Samadhi and tranquil purity!
Divine provision shall appear on demand
And so too the finery and robes of my land.
Any being who chants my Buddha-name,
Wholeheartedly abandons evil and repents
With faithful resolve, shall enter my domain
And rise to Sagehood upon the Lotus Lagoon.
I am Amitabha and my vows have come to pass!”

Upon hearing Amitabha’s august vows,
The entire assembly before him bowed,
Moved to joyous tears by his great resolve!
They beheld his unsurpassed compassion,
His merciful uprooting of all evil passions,
Granting each the chance to taste the Samadhi
Of the highest, most true and utmost Bodhi!
On this glorious and regal Dharma day,
The Earth shook in the six auspicious ways,
Gleaming gods and goddesses were seen
Gliding over the stars stroking harp-strings,
The ethereal heavens soon resounded with
Gilded notes of splendid divine bliss,
And the courts of the heavenly lords feted,
Raining down golden lilies like confetti!

Poem released into Public Domain

PDF download: the-odyssey-of-dharmakara

Archive.org Interactive Version

 

Life’s Foggy Path

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Oh life, your path is foggy
And every step so groggy,
We are lost in a daze,
Drifting in mist and haze!

We glide through the years
Filled with hopes and fears,
We wander without direction
In mazes leading to perdition,

Whence we came from,
We never care to know,
Where we are going,
We ruin by our foolish doing,

Like greedy flies we fly,
Guided by ire and desire,
Away from the warm respite
Of Dharma’s bright light!

Comment:

The inspiration for this poem came from the two illustrations above (from the Eastern version of the Inferno) which depicts the solid bridges (of gold, jade, silver, stone) crossed by virtuous souls on their way to a good rebirth (top picture), and the treacherous and foggy wooden bridge for those who have accumulated no merits but plenty of sin.

Moreover, another inspiration was the following passage:

“At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I see that every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa is an offense. Beings tend to use up any wholesome benefits they accrue, and many of them end up retreating from their initial resolve. If they encounter evil conditions, they magnify them with every thought. They are like people trying to carry heavy rocks while walking through mud. Each step becomes more difficult and the rocks more cumbersome as their feet sink deeper. If they meet a mentor, he may be strong enough to lighten or even totally remove their burdens. Helping them thus, the mentor will then advise them to stay on solid ground and be mindful never to go back into that treacherous path.”

Source: Chp. 7 of Earth Store Sutra

Note: Chp. 7 of the Earth Store Sutra is a short but extremely important chapter that explains the process of dying, the 49 day grace period, and rebirth. I strongly recommend everyone familiarize themselves with it. 

For more info on managing death and rebirth, please read my Free and Public Domain translation of the Last Rites of Amitabha and my article Beagle Meets Amitabha:

PDF Download:last-rites-of-amitabha

Archive.org Version (Kindle, Pdf, Daisy…)

All poems, resources and post text released into Public Domain

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

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

Musings on Music, Art and Dharma

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Above: Calligraphy by Master Chin Kung on the Role of the Four Great Kings.

The Middle Way is not extreme
It is similar to lute strings
Too tight and they will snap and break
Too loose and they will never play
But when tuned and tempered just right
Vivid notes can leap in delight 

The reason the Dharma protector of the Eastern Direction (The King of the East) holds a pipa (Chinese lute) is to symbolize the importance of temperance and moderation in the Dharma. The temperate heart is a keystone that holds the bridge of cultivation. I believe that Dharma and art make an excellent pair as the former lends substance to the latter while the latter adorns the former, making its principles more well known.

Thus, I would like to recommend  Tadeo Giorgio’s excellent vintage rendition of the Commendatore Scene from  Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I feel that this scene is an excellent mirror image of the following passage from Upasaka Xia’s Infinite Life Sutra:

各懷殺毒,惡氣冥冥。為妄興事,違逆天地。恣意罪極,頓奪其壽。下入惡道,無有出期。

“Because they harbor malicious intent, they tumble from darkness to deeper darkness. They indulge their caprice and defy the will of Heaven and Earth. Injustice and vice inevitably follow and will run unchecked until evil karma accumulates to the maximum. As their original lifespans have been shortened by their evil deeds, they will soon meet death and fall into the hells for eons without end”

Doesn’t this sound like the title character’s life and final retribution?

Note that Don Giovanni was offered a last chance to repent and save himself. In Buddhism, such a chance exists as well. For example, in the Contemplation Sutra, it is stated that even lifetime heavy offenders can achieve Pure Land rebirth on their deathbed if they U- turn to truly repent, and faithfully and single-mindedly seek Amitabha. Please read my free and Public Domain translation of the Last Rites of Amitabha (a supportive chanting guidebook to help those on the eve of death) for more info:

PDF version:

last-rites-of-amitabha

Scribe Version:

Moreover, I would also like to recommend this distinctly excellent rendition of Chopin’s Etude Op. 10 No.3 on the Guzheng:

Lastly, please visit my Music Recommendations page (top row menu option) which I set up to endorse brilliant artists that I admire but who do not enjoy wider renown and fame. The latest additions are tenor Robert White and soprano Alison Hagely.

All rights that belong to me (i.e. the attached texts, poem and post text) are released into the Public Domain.