...Great Strength Bodhisattva told how he cultivated
the dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha, which is a very appropriate method
for people in this day and age. It's quite effective. Why? The sutras tell us
that in the Dharma-ending Age, not even one in a million people who cultivate
will attain the Way. That many people cultivate and not even one person among
them attains to the Way! Then what shall we do? Don't worry. It goes on to say,
"Only by mindfulness of the Buddha are they taken across." The dharma door of
reciting the Buddha's name is very easy. With the dharma door of mindfulness of
transcending the Triple Realm;
Gaining rebirth with one's karma in tow.
What does it mean to transcend the three realms through the side door? It's like an insect in a piece of bamboo. If the insect were to gnaw its way out through the length of the bamboo, it would have to go through all the sections; it would take a long time. If the insect were to gnaw a hole in the side of the bamboo instead, it would get out very easily. People who are mindful of the Buddha are like the insect who goes out the side of the bamboo; they escape the three realms on a horizontal plane, right at the level they are. "One carries one's karma into that rebirth." The karma one carries is former karma, not current karma, it is old karma, not new karma.
This means that before you understood the method of being mindful of the Buddha, you created offenses. You can take that karma with you when you go to rebirth in the Pure Land. But you shouldn't continue to create bad karma once you know about reciting the Buddha's name, because you can't take that karma along. Once you know about mindfulness of the Buddha, you should change your ways. Don't keep creating bad karma. If you do, you will be piling karma on top of karma, adding offenses to offenses. That's called "knowing clearly and transgressing intentionally," in which case, the offenses are tripled. You can take your old karma with you, but now that you understand the Buddhadharma, you can't say, "Oh, I can recite the Buddha's name on the one hand and create bad karma on the other hand, because in the future I can take my karma with me to the Land of Ultimate Bliss." That's a mistake. Not only will you be unable to take that karma with you, you won't be able to be reborn there at all, because you will be hindered by your karma. We people who believe in the Buddha should take care not to create any further offenses once we know about mindfulness of the Buddha. This section of text concerning Great Strength Bodhisattva's perfect penetration through mindfulness of the Buddha is extremely important.
Everyone should know what the dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha is all about.
Why should we be mindful of the Buddha? Because we have great causes and conditions with Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha became a Buddha ten kalpas ago. Before that, he was called Bhikshu Dharma Treasury. At that time he made forty-eight great vows. In making his thirteenth and fourteenth vows he said, "If the living beings throughout the ten directions say my name and do not become Buddhas, I will not attain the right enlightenment." In other words, if people who recite his name do not become Buddhas, he will not become a Buddha. And because of the power of Amitabha Buddha's vows, everyone who recites his name can get reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The Pure Land dharma door comprises one of the five schools of Chinese Buddhism:
1. the Chan school (dhyana),
2. the Teaching school,
3. the Vinaya school,
4. the Secret school,
5. the Pure Land school.
The Pure Land sect will be the last of the five to endure. In this world, during the Dharma-ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first sutra to disappear. After that, the other sutras will disappear also, until only the Amitabha Sutra is left. While the Amitabha Sutra remains in the world, it will take many people across. After another hundred years, it will also be gone. Dharmaending simply means that the dharma will entirely disappear. Once the Amitabha Sutra has vanished, all that will be left will be the phrase, "Namo Amitabha Buddha." This tremendous phrase will also take many people across; then, after another hundred years, it, too, will disappear. All that will be left then will be the name "Amitabha Buddha," which will remain in the world yet another hundred years and then vanish as well. At that point there will be no Buddhadharma remaining in the world. While we are still at the advent of the Dharma-ending Age, we should practice and uphold the events of the Proper Dharma Age. That's called "Requesting that the Buddhas dwell in the world to turn the dharma wheel." In the Dharma-ending Age, we should not fear any suffering or difficulty. I don't fear the trouble of lecturing the sutra for you, and you should not fear the trouble of coming to listen. Strike up your spirits! Don't say you're tired and have to go rest. Forget yourself for the sake of the dharma.
- The Shurangama Sutra, Volume 5, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva, with Commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua