The Third Vow: To Make Offerings Extensively

The primary characteristic of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is an immeasurably broad and compassionate mind, which in Mahayana Buddhism is considered as the perfect function of the self-nature. Ordinary Bodhisattvas have seen to their self-nature, but it is partial, not perfect. Only the virtuous character of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is perfect. All his vows are directed to all beings in the universe. Herein lies the difference between Universal Worthy Bodhisattva and ordinary Bodhisattvas who practice just the Six Paramitas. An offering to one Buddha is an offering to all Buddhas. His offering are not only made to Buddhas but also sentient and non-sentient beings. Therefore, one is all, and all is one. With this great broad-mindedness, we can attain the non-discriminatory and boundless perfection.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva told us that of all of the many kinds of offerings, that of the teachings is supreme. However, only the Buddha’s teachings can help sentient beings break through confusion and delusion, to uncover the perfect self-nature, to become enlightened. No other kind of offering can do this. As Buddhism is an education, we are to honor the teacher and revere his or her teachings. Only in this way, can we attain perfect, complete enlightenment.

In the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, which sutra is the most important? In the Sui and Tang dynasties, over a thousand years ago, great Buddhist scholars studied and compared all of the sutras from Buddha Shakyamuni’s forty-nine years of teaching. They agreed that the Flower Adornment Sutra was the most important. So, the Flower Adornment Sutra was commonly acknowledged as the perfect teaching. The scholars then made comparison between the Infinite Life Sutra and the Flower Adornment Sutra and concluded that the Infinite Life Sutra was higher than the Flower Adornment Sutra.

They explained that the Flower Adornment Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are the two most important. In Chinese Buddhism, they are called the “First Vehicle Perfect Teachings.” Both function as the guide to the Infinite Life Sutra. Therefore, the Infinite Life Sutra is really the number one teaching.

So we know what is best and most important among all of Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings. However, it was only after Mr. Lian-Ju Xia, a Buddhist layman, edited a compilation of the five versions of the original translations of the Infinite Life Sutra that we could enjoy a perfect benefit. The great project of editing such an extensive literary collection demonstrated that Mr. Xia was not an ordinary person, but rather the manifestation of a Great Bodhisattva. This great being felt compassion for the sentient beings in our world, which revealed that the opportunity for many beings to attain Buddhahood, had matured. Thus, he manifested in our world to compile the sutra version and propagate the Pure Land method during our Dharma Ending Age.

When Venerable Master Chin Kung visited Beijing, a student of Mr. Xia presented him with a photo of his teacher. Upon returning to Taiwan, he printed an enlarged copy of the photo. Although it is not very clear due to repeated duplications, an amazing phenomenon is apparent. Behind Mr. Xia’s head the image of a Buddha appears. Light is emitting from this image as well as from below his shoes. Although the photo has been reduplicated many times, we can still clearly see that image over Mr. Xia’s head is that of a Buddha sitting in his lotus seat. We placed the photo in a prominent position to express our gratitude to this great Bodhisattva for having given us such a gift and for guiding us in our cultivation and propagation of Buddhism.

The Infinite Life Sutra is the most important sutra for helping all beings to attain Buddhahood. It contains forty-eight chapters. Which chapter is number one? Of all the chapters, chapter six is the most important. It tells us of Buddha Amitabha’s Forty-Eight Vows. When we read the Infinite Life Sutra, we see that Buddha Shakyamuni accorded with these vows when introduced the history and background of the Pure Land.

Which of these vows is number one? The great scholars and monks in ancient China agreed that the eighteenth vow is number one. It tells us that ten recitations of Buddha Amitabha’s name will result in birth into the Pure Land. In Venerable Master Chin Kung’s early years of study, he questioned whether the Buddha had the ability to help a person to immediately become a Buddha, even if they were doomed to birth in the Avici Hell, the lowest of the hell realms. If Buddha was unable to accomplish this, then his wisdom and ability were limited and saying that he had all virtues and perfect abilities was a compliment rather than fact. However, if the Buddha was capable of helping such a person become a Buddha, then I would believe that he was really perfect in wisdom and capable and thus worthy of our admiration. This question remained unanswered until Master read the forty-eight vows of Buddha Amitabha in the sutra. Then he realized that the Buddha’s wisdom and virtuous character are indeed perfect and universal.

The Buddha is indeed capable of helping a person who has committed serious offenses to become a Buddha. The question lies in whether or not the person believes and accepts. If not, then the fault lies with the individual, not the Buddha. So, after reading the Infinite Life Sutra we know that anyone who sincerely practices the recitation method will surely succeed.

In the earlier example of Master Di-Xian and the student who so successfully chanted “Namo Amituofo” for three years, the student knew in advance when he would be born into the Pure Land. He told the woman who brought his food daily. After he passed away from this world, he remained in a standing position for three days waiting for his master to come to make final arrangements. His birth into the Pure Land was into the highest level. His accomplishment is proof of the eighteenth vow, which explains to us that this birth can be accomplished with just ten recitations of “Amitabha.”

Anyone who firmly believes in this method surely has good roots, great merits and virtues. The Infinite Life Sutra explains that the monk’s rebirth after such a short time of practice was due to his having made offering to innumerable Buddhas in previous lifetimes. As a result, he was able to believe and practice. Without his good roots from previous lifetimes, he would not have been able to believe regardless of what his teacher had said.

The name of Buddha Amitabha contains infinite meanings. It is the name of the universe, it includes everything. I few want to know the meaning of the name, we can read the Infinite Life Sutra, the explanation of the name. If we want to understand the Infinite Life Sutra we can read the Flower Adornment Sutra, for it is a detailed explanation of the Infinite Life Sutra. If we want to understand the Flower Adornment Sutra we can read the entire Great Canon for it is the detailed explanation of the Flower Adornment Sutra. By using this method to understand the sutras, we will know that the merit and virtue of the name of Buddha Amitabha are truly extraordinary.

This name alone contains all of Buddhism as well as all laws throughout the universe. Therefore, to chant this name is to chant all sutras. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, there was a famous monk Ciyun Guan-ding. Among his many works is the Directory to the Visualization Sutra, which tells us that when we seek to escape from disasters we can resort to reciting sutras, chanting mantras or drawing divination slips. However, if a person has committed grave wrongdoings then the only thing that will work is to recite “Namo Amituofo.” From this, we understand that this is the best method to follow when facing disaster. Many people do not know this so they resort to other methods. Therefore a person who is ill may recite the Medicine Master Sutra and when faced with disaster may recite the “Universal Door Chapter.” This person does not know that the merits and virtues of Buddha Name Recitation make it the number one method.

Then why didn’t Buddha Shakyamuni tell us so directly? Why did he teach us so many sutras and methods? Because many people do not believe in the Buddha Name Recitation Method. So, he kept the finest method for last. This is similar to what we see in the Taiwan Palace Museum. Most people consider the beautiful jade collection of the Qing dynasty to be more valuable than the bronze ware, which resembles pieces of metal, not realizing the bronze ware is the most valuable part of the collection in the museum. Similarly, most people do not realize the true value of Buddha Name Recitation. So, the Buddha had to teach all the sutras to guide sentient beings to the Pure Land.

Master Shan Dao told us that the only purpose for all Buddhas to manifest in the world it to tell us of the original vows of Buddha Amitabha. Today, we can truly understand, cultivate and propagate the Pure Land method. Truthfully, this is due to the support of the Triple Jewels. Also, the opportunities today for sentient beings to achieve attainment are very good. In the past five to six years, millions of copies of the Infinite Life Sutra have been printed and spread throughout the world. Venerable Master Chin Kung has been traveling around the world introducing and recommending this sutra. Many people have liked and accepted it. Seeing you here working and practicing so earnestly, Master is very pleased and feels that his hard work has been rewarded. Therefore, if we can practice and widely propagate this method, then we can say that we have perfectly fulfilled the vow to “Make Offerings Extensively.”

The methods used by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are infinite in number. They are the display of great compassion and lead to birth in the Pure Land. For example, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Also, Zhuen Ti Bodhisattva, one of the great patriarchs of Tibetan Buddhism, is a manifestation of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. Both Universal Worthy Bodhisattva and Guan Yin Bodhisattva urge us to seek birth into the Western Pure land. We ordinary people discriminate between Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, but Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with their perfect freedom and non-discriminatory minds do not discriminate among the different schools. All eighty-four thousand methods lead to the same goal. With this understanding, we will naturally respect all methods and schools.