The Chinese word of diligence is comprised of two characters meaning perseverance in a specialised field and progress. The two need to work together. Buddhism is neither conservative nor backward, but seeks daily improvement. Some says that Buddhism is no longer relevant. These remarks are erroneous because the people who said them did not know the Paramita of Diligence. Progress is good, but more important is progress with diligence. Currently, there are many great scientists in the west who have made many discoveries, they persevered, they did research everyday and never stopped. The same applies to learning Buddhism. We practice diligently when we chose one school or method and stay focused on our selection, studying until we excel in it, before advancing to another method. It is not effective to concentration different methods at the same time. Once we understand one method, we will understand them all of them. This is known as “Once we achieve in one, we achieve in all.” If we try to practice many methods before we are enlightened, they will become obstacles. Lets look at a story about what happened to one monk who specialised in the Buddha Name Chanting Method.
In the beginning of this century, Master Di-Xian had a student who became a monk at the age of forty so the student was almost the same as the Master. The two had been childhood friends. Master Di-Xian, who was from a well to do family, had received a good education. However, his childhood friend friend was from a poor family and had received little education. When the friend grew up, he could only do manual; labour and thus had a very difficult life.
One time, he went to visit Master Di-Xan. After staying at the temple for a few days, he told the Master that he too wanted to become a monk.”Why?” asked the Master. “Because life is too hard and I want to be a monk.” replied his friend. The Master initially denied this request because he felt the rigorous training and sutra memorisation would prove too much for someone who was illiterate and much older that novice monks usually are. The other monks would look down upon his friend. Feeling everything would prove too much for his friend, the Master denied his request.
But his friend persisted and so the master gave in. Master Di-Xian said to him, “I will accept you as a monk. But I don’t think you need to take the vows of abiding by the precepts because you may not stand the rigour of the fifty-three day training. There are many deserted temples in the countryside, I will find you one to stay in.” The Master arranged for some practitioners to provide meals for the new monk. He then taught his friend to chant “Namo Amituofo.” “Just recite this phrase over and over. When you are tired, take a rest, when rested, resume your chanting. I am sure that you will greatly benefit from this.”
And so the new monk isolated himself in the small temple and concentrated solely on his chanting. Three years later, he went to visit friends and relatives. He came back and told the women, who had been doing the cooking for him, “There is no need to prepare food for me tomorrow.” The women thought the monk, who had not left the temple for three years and decided to re-visit his friends again the following day.
The next day, she went by the temple to see if he had returned. She went to the temple and called. Receiving no reply she went into the temple and fond him standing, with his recitation beads in his hand. She greeted him but received no response. When she moved closer to him, she realised he was dead but still standing! Never having seem anything like this before in her life, she rushed off to ask the others who were looking after the monk, what to do. They sent a message to the Master’s temple informing him of the strange occurrence and asking what to do.
Due to difficulties in travelling, it took Master Di-Xian three days to arrive at his friend’s temple. He understood that his friend had been born into the Western Pure Land. He looked at the still standing dead friend and said admiringly to him, “You have proved that your decision three years ago to become a monk was a fruitful one. Not one of the Dharma masters or abbots at all the famous way places can match your achievement.” For three years, the uneducated monk had done nothing but recite “Namo Amituofo.” His single-minded. ceaseless recitation had resulted in his achievement of being freed from the cycle of both and death and of being born into the Western Pure Land.
The practice of diligence is important regardless of what we are doing. Whether chanting “Amituofo,” sitting in mediation, chanting mantras, or studying sutras, we need to practice diligence. In studying sutras, if we want to help ourselves as well as others, it would be best to specialize in just ourselves as well as others, it would be best to specilaize in just one sutra for study and lecturing. In this way, each time we study and lecture, we will reach a new state of mind, we will improve each time. A person who lectures on the Amitabha Sutra for ten years will become Buddha Amitabha. A person, who lectures on the “Universal Door Chapter” for ten years, will become Guan Yin Bodhisattva. A person, who tries to learn ten sutras in ten years, will become a jack of all trades and master of none. Now we can see how important diligence is!
So, we hope that all those who give Dharma talks will become experts instead of general scholars. For while such students appear to be knowledgeable in many areas, but actually they are incapable of mastering anything. On the contrary, students who specialize exclusively in one subject will turn out to be versatile experts. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are versatile, but they all concentrate on their respective teaching. To be diligent is to delve deeply into one method. The virtue and benefits of practicing the Paramita of Diligence in this way are infinite.