Letter 23 – This Mind is the Buddha

There area, in general, four methods of Pure Land practice: oral recitation (Holding the Name), contemplation of a Buddha image, Visualization (contemplation by thought) and True Mark Recitation.

Among the four methods, oral recitation has the broadest appeal. It is not only easy to practice, it does not lead to “demonic events.”

If you wish to practice the Visualization method, you should carefully read the Meditation Sutra and clearly understand such principles as “This Mind is the Buddha.” “If the mind is pure, the Buddha appears,” “All realms and states are Mind-Only, there should be no attachments to them.” Once you understand that realms and states do not come from outside and avoid developing attachments to them, these states then become more sublime and the mind grows purer and more focused. If you reach that point, the benefits of Visualization are significant.

On the other hand, if you are not familiar with the realms visualized and have not comprehended the essence of the Dharma, but are over-eager to see [auspicious] realms, everything is delusion. Not only are you not in communion with the Buddhas, you even begin to create the causes of demonic events (hallucinate). This is because the more eager you are to see the realms, the more agitated and deluded your mind becomes.

Since from the outset, you have failed to apply your mind correctly, you will not be able to realize that these realms are demonic apparitions. Therefore, you are not overcome with joy; your thoughts and feelings are not peaceful and calm. Taking advantage of this, demons will cloud your mind and plunder your Self-Nature. At that point, even if a living Buddha were to appear, he would have no way of rescuing you.

You should, therefore, take your capacities and circumstances into consideration and not aim for what is too lofty and beyond your reach—seeking benefits only to receive them. The Patriarch Shan Tao said:

“Sentient beings in the Dharma-Ending Age have agitated, inverted minds. Visualization lofty realms with such coarse minds is certainly difficult to accomplish!”

Therefore, the Great Sage [Buddha Sakyamuni] took pity and specifically recommended oral recitation because he feared that those who were not skillful in using their minds would be lost in demonic realms.

Cultivation through oral recitation is very easy. To achieve rebirth in the Pure Land, you need only ensure that single-minded thought follows single-minded thought. Moreover, utmost sincerity and earnestness are also wonderful methods to treat the deluded mind and demonic realms.

You should think this over carefully and strive with all your mental strength to cultivate.