Compilation of Speeches in London, UK

No.       Content
1 The Wonderful Merits of Buddhist Thrice Yearning Service
2 A Brief Introduction to the Masterpieces of Traditional Chinese Culture“Four Books”——The 2017 Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony in London
3 Inheriting the Wisdoms and Traditions of Our Ancestors Passing Them on to Enlighten and Educate Future Generations——The Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony in London 2017

The Wonderful Merits of Buddhist Thrice Yearning Service

Respected Venerable Masters, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: My warmest greetings to everyone!

I am very pleased to have your attendance at the Zhong Feng Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service or Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service, in short form, on this auspicious day. We held this Service here for the first time last year and have held the Service annually elsewhere for over thirty years. This Buddhist Service is indeed beneficial to both the living and the deceased, and has supreme merits to protect the world and alleviate disasters!

I would like to take this opportunity to explain the underlying meaning, content and theory behind the Zhong Feng Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service to help you understand its significance.

This Service is based on the book The Complete Collection of Zhong Feng Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service which is a consummate unison between phenomenon and noumenon, appropriate and relevant for our time. It is a grave mistake if we treat this as an ordinary Buddhist repentance ceremony, just chanting without whole-hearted devotion. We should take this as a Buddhist Rite. Hence, we must first understand its meaning and enter contemplation through sutra recitation, then, perform the ritual proceedings accordingly to receive real benefits.

The Meaning of Zhong Feng Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service

Zhong Feng is the Dharma name of Master Ming Ben, a great Zen master in the Yuan dynasty. He had attained the Great Awakening, seeing through the true nature with a purified heart. He propagated the practice of Zen widely. From royals to common people, all were influenced by his teachings. He was bestowed the title of “National Master” by the Yuan Emperor. Being a Zen master, promoting the school of the Pure Land through his works on the Buddhist Yearning Service had profound significance. He highlighted throughout his book that the school of the Pure Land enjoys the equal advanced state of enlightenment as the school of Zen. And in terms of expediency in helping living beings to attain awakening, the Pure Land school is even superior than Zen.

A narrow definition of the word “Thrice” denotes that there are three periods in the Buddhist Rite. But it has a broader meaning. In ancient India, a day was divided into six periods: three periods for the day and three periods for the night. From this, “thrice” can be extended to mean day and night incessantly.

The Chinese character nian (念) is an associative compound character. The upper part is jin (今) meaning “present” and the lower part is Xin (心) meaning “heart”. When combined, nian (念) means what we harbour in our mind (heart) in the present. Xi nian (繫念) means “our mind (heart) is bonded at one point, in a state of yearning”.

The biggest distinction between an ordinary person and a sage is thought – ancient sages said, “This very thought draws the distinction between the sage and the reckless”. A sage can focus his thought on anything at will. But an ordinary person’s mind is unfocused with uncontrollable fleeting thought, hence, largely ineffective.

The main purpose of performing the Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service is to develop our ability to control our thought or “the ability to focus one’s mind” as emphasized by contemporary scholars. The Sutra on the Buddha’s Bequeathed Teaching says, “If we can concentrate our mind at one point, there is nothing you cannot accomplish”. In such a state of mind, we will achieve “meditative concentration” where the force of our will power is unimaginable. A singularly focused mind can give rise to immeasurable wisdom, virtues and ability. This is what meditative concentration or Samadhi is all about. All Buddhist cultivation methods can be summarized into three aspects: “precepts, meditative concentration and wisdom.” Among the three, meditative concentration is the pivot. This reflects how important it is.

The Buddhist Rite compiled by Master Zhong Feng in his book serves as a cultivation guidance to seek rebirth in the Pure Land. It contains a complete set of cultivation practices including praising Buddhas, reciting sutras and mantras, Buddhist prostration, and dedication of merits. It is similar to the Five Contemplation Methods taught in Vasubandhu Bodhisattva’s Treatise on Rebirth in the Pure Land: Buddhist prostration, praising Buddhas, making vows, contemplation and dedication of merits. Both are cultivation methods to attain meditative concentration in Mahayana Buddhism with enhancing support from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Therefore, people gathering in a solemn environment to perform the ritual proceedings with Dharma masters is a superb and magnificent art form of Buddhist educational activity, which is embedded with immeasurable compassion and wisdom of the Buddhas.

A Synopsis of the Complete Works of Zhong Feng Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service.

The beginning of the book is about the true incense of precepts and concentration. Its main content in sequence is the Prajana Heart Sutra and praising verses. The First Period starts with reciting the Amitabha Sutra once, followed by praising verses, making vows, Buddha name-recitation (“Buddha Recitation”) with four Dharma teachings in between. After taking a break, the Second Period still starts with reciting the Amitabha Sutra, followed by four Dharma teachings plus Buddha praising and Buddha Recitation. The Third Period also begins with reciting the Amitabha Sutra once plus four Dharma teachings, and it ends with making sincere repentance and vows. Therefore, it is apparent that the main purpose of   the Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service is to break through the worldly preoccupations and attachment in an ordinary person’s narrow mindset and continuously broaden their mindset to a state that is close to, and connecting with Amitabha Buddha. In fact, the whole process is to uncover our innate extraordinary ability.

The four sentences of the verse at the beginning of the main Service have very rich meaning. The first two sentences talk about how the origin of the universe and life is due to phenomena arising from delusion. The last two sentences teach us how to return to our true nature. How did we arrive at a state of delusion? Originally, in a state (sea) of enlightenment (correct understanding), the universe did not exist. The sea of enlightenment is the sea of self-nature. The self-nature awareness is innate. As stated in the Asvaghosa Bodhisattva’s Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, “Enlightenment is innate; delusion is not.” Today, we talk about how an ordinary person has “lost” his true nature to become deluded. This is a fitting, worldly way to describe the situation. In fact, our true nature can never be lost. Being deluded is merely an illusion, like a dream. Great Master Zhong Feng had expounded this clearly in his book – all hinges on enlightenment or delusion. Even that is not real. It is becoming unfathomable, isn’t it? It is often described in sequence that first, there is universe, then the world comes into existence, then there are living beings. But in reality, everything is manifested by the mind, and such manifestation   happens just way too quickly!

Modern scientists have a similar theory, which is getting closer to that described in Buddhism: “sudden and instant manifestation at once” without any sequence. There is no way you can tell the sequence because its speed is so fast that it manifests in one 2,240 trillionth of a second. How can you tell there is sequence? Hence, the Buddha said at Surangama Assembly that, “In the instant it arises, in the same instant it ceases.” What is “in the instant”? It is the present moment without distance. Without distance means without space. Without sequence means without time. Time and space are mere artificial attachments of ordinary people, and not the truth! So what is the truth? The sutras say one deviant thought causes delusion, and that thought occurs in a tremendously short time span!

“The mark of tranquility and cessation” described in the sutras is a state of enlightened mind attained by Great Bodhisattvas on the eighth and higher grounds, which is unwavering. But the minds of ordinary people waver and that breeds trouble. It gives rise to distance and time, which is called Shi Jie (“the world”). The Chinese character Shi refers to time and Jie refers to space. What we see now is illusory – an incessant continuation of illusory phenomena. We treat such illusions as real, thus, wandering thoughts and attachment arise. Consequently, this causes the manifestation of the Saha World and the Cycle of Rebirths in the Six Realms. The illusory phenomenon is like a dream. But we are stuck in a continuous nightmare for eons, and becoming further and further deluded alongside increasingly severe suffering.

In this Dharma-ending age, there is no other remedy except the the Pure Land school method. It is likened that we are now stuck on the shore of delusion. The Buddhas and Boddhisattvas are on the other shore of awakening. We need a boat to carry us to the other shore and the boat is this Buddhist Service. Performing this Service according to the right methods and Buddha’s teachings means you are relying on a boat to carry you safely to the other shore of awakening, to return from “false” to “real”, from “deluded” to “awakening”. Master Zhong Feng stipulated in the title of this Service Xi nian (“yearning”) – reciting incessantly the Amitabha Buddha name single-mindedly. Day and night throughout, there is nothing else in our mind other than the thought of Amitabha Buddha. This is not easy to do either but by far it is the easiest method to attain Buddhahood among the thousands of Buddhist cultivation methods. The gist of this method is no matter what kind of thoughts coming to mind, all are wandering thoughts. We must revert to Amitabha Buddha at once. As said by the ancient masters, “one need not fear of wandering thoughts but should fear of awakening late”. You will be successful if you cultivate in this manner.

So the above summarizes what true Buddhism is all about – to revert from falsehood to reality, and to revert from delusion to awakening. This also summarizes the principles behind the Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service. Following this method will enable us to attain Buddhahood within one lifetime without regression.

The Dharma teaching of the First Period says that the buddhas and Bodhisattvas are enlightened so they know every phenomenon is non-arising. And if there is no “arising”, naturally there is no “ceasing”. This is the truth of the universe. For those who are deluded, in their sensory perception, they see arising and ceasing in everything because of their differentiation and attachment. In fact, the whole universe and everything are one entity but manifesting different phenomena. If you look at this issue closely in clarity, you can ascertain where Amitabha Buddha comes from – it is manifested by the mind. Whose Mind? Our mind. We should know that the true mind (true nature) is “common” whereas the false minds are “different”. If we depart from wandering thoughts and differentiation, the true mind will be uncovered. The Mahayana sutras often say, “The Buddhas of the Ten Directions and Three Existences (all periods) share the same Dharma Body”. Hence, it is one and not dual. Amitabha Buddha is our true mind, and our true mind is Amitabha Buddha. It is non-duality.

“If your mind is purified so will be the phenomenal world.” Our planet and the Western Pure Land are one, not dual. People’s minds in the Western Pure Land are pure, hence, countless treasures are manifested. In our world, people’s minds are wicked, hence, soil, sand and stones are manifested. In fact, it is of one entity. The cause for different phenomena lies in the difference between delusion and awakening. Everyone in the Western Pure Land has attained awakening, as a consequence, everything manifested is incredibly beautiful. In our planet, people are wicked and commit evil conduct, as a consequence, unpleasant things or phenomena are manifested. This is how it works. Therefore, everything including the Ten Realms is manifested by our mind. Now that we understand the truth, how can we correct ourselves? We should begin with correcting our mindset. We need to truly cultivate, not just in form but in substance. Every thought we harbour must be virtuous without the slightest evilness, then, the environment or phenomenon will naturally become good. In other words, “Everything is manifested by our mind” and “when the mind is pure, the Buddha land is pure.” Thus, if everyone who participates in this Buddhist Service is earnestly devoted, and their minds are purified, it would produce a positive effect to purify the world and protect it from disasters.

The Dharma teaching in the Third Period says, “A mind with fleeting thoughts is bound to be subdued by Buddha-name recitation.” The core tenets of Buddha Recitation are “Faith, Vows and Practice.” Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva taught us to “to recite the Buddha name incessantly with a pure mind.” A pure mind is without doubt and without intermingling with other thoughts and methods. Ancient masters had complete faith, hence, were able to let go of everything to bring forth the proper thought. It is extremely rare to encounter the Pure Land school method. Now we have encountered this rare opportunity which may not occur again in millions of eons. We must grab this opportunity firmly and let go of everything to practise Buddha Recitation without intermingling with any wandering thoughts or attachment. Buddha Recitation is of utmost importance and it is a perfect cure for our fleeting thoughts. If you practise this method according to the right method and Buddha’s teachings, you will realize noticeable effect in three to six months. By then, you will be able to feel the “Dharma joy” and will enjoy Buddha Recitation. Of course, it is difficult at the beginning. The key is to subdue your severe afflictions of your habituated tendencies deep-seated in your mind since immeasurable eons ago. Your afflictions will naturally be subdued by following the Buddha Recitation method properly. The key is “to focus on a single subject single-minded for a prolonged period,” without disruption and distraction. Then, your mind will become purer and purer. With less wandering thoughts, afflictions will be lessened, and wisdom will grow. You will have increasing ability to understand things with clarity that you could not understand before because of your purified mind. This is a result of your enhanced wisdom and merits on Buddha Recitation.

The sutra says, “A Buddha Recitation practitioner should have faith and make sincere vows (to be reborn in the Pure Land); contemplate the miseries of the Cycle of Rebirth, bring forth the right causes, and loathe the suffering, hustle, conflict and turmoil of this world.” We must have this mindset to make Buddha Recitation effective, to connect with Amitabha Buddha. If we find our Buddha Recitation is not connecting with Amitabha Buddha, we need to correct our mindset. First and foremost, we must have unshakable faith. “To bring forth the Bodhi mind; to recite the Buddha-name with single-minded focus” are crucial in the Pure Land school method. These are the right causes for rebirth in the Pure Land. We can refer to the chapters on “The Three Ranks of Rebirth” and “Proper Causes for Rebirth” of the Infinite Life Sutra to get a clear understanding on these points.

We must develop a mindset to renounce the miseries of the endless cycle of rebirths. Within the six realms, if you have planted some good karmic causes and when some good conditions are encountered, you will be born into the three good paths. After the good karmic reward is exhausted, and the bad karmic causes emerge, you will fall to the three evil paths. The Buddha has told us in the sutras that as long as we are within the six realms, it is certain that the time you spend in the three evil paths is very long, and the time in the three good paths is short. It is said that the three evil paths are the home of the living beings in the Six Realms. They briefly come out of the evil paths to the three good paths to take a short holiday away from home. Only when you realize how pathetic it is, will your resolution to renounce the Six Realms become firm.

We are now experiencing the “suffering, hustle, conflict and turmoil” in this world in the same manner as described in the sutra. It is not easy for young people to appreciate this. For those who are in his seventies or eighties, after having experienced the ups and downs of life are likely to harbor detestation over life. There is no peace of mind – every day is plagued by the disturbances caused by human relationships, daily chores and social issues. But it is no use to be pessimistic. This would not solve the problem. Today’s society is full of suffering – people no longer know what ethics and morality are. People are obsessed with the temptation of sensual pleasure of the Five Desires and Six Sense-objects. All these temptations are bad, or to put it bluntly, are all karmic offences, in particular, the content instigated by the Internet. I have not watched them but I heard from my students that they are all about killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and lying, teaching you to do evil. Now youngsters, even small kids, have been obsessed with the Internet since a young age. Watching these evil contents everyday has totally destroyed whatever little conscience they have remaining. These people do evil unknowingly because of delusion; they have lost their ability to distinguish between good and evil. If you talk to them about virtuousness, they will be puzzled for it is something unheard of. They would take it as a fairy tale and would not accept it. Their mind is relentless. This poses a serious problem! If we look at the causes and conditions the society is creating, you can imagine what the consequences will be.

Subsequent text says “starting to recite Amitabha”. Namely, with such sad and bitter situation, we need to start reciting Amitabha outright without any other thoughts. “No other thoughts” means we no longer have any doubts, and prejudice, nor do we have any persistent attachment to our own ideas. We let go of everything and focus on marching on the road straight to the Pure Land. Master Zhong Feng cited the following analogy. Reciting Amitabha is like the doubled edge sword, sharp and shining. This is to describe reciting Amitabha is like a fighting a war. The warrior is holding the double-edge sword, riding on the war chariot, leaning on the bars of the chariot to show his posture of fighting in a war. Here is another analogy in the text: “It is like a huge fire wheel, it is blazing with flame.” This huge fire wheel is like the atom bomb. “Anything that attacks it will get blazed and anything that touches it will get hurt.” “Anything that attacks it will get blazed.” It means anything that comes near the huge fire wheel will be burned into ashes. “Anything that touches it will get hurt.” It means anything that touches the double-edged sword will get hurt. Master Zhong Feng used this analogy to describe the effect of reciting Amitabha, just like the double-edged sword and the huge fire wheel. This analogy is to use the huge fire wheel to exemplify the supreme wisdom of Prajna, and to use the double-edged sword exemplify the deep concentration of Samadhi obtained as a result of reciting Amitabha. What is the aforementioned “anything” that will get blazed and get hurt? This is what was described previously, “the tiring reincarnation and the agony of toil and trouble of life.” Once they come across “unwavering mind” and “great wisdom from enlightenment” resulted from the cultivation of reciting Amitabha, they will be eliminated.

“To reach a state of one-pointed mind without scattering, ridden of the notion of “essence” and “phenomena” is the ultimate goal of Buddha Recitation. When we reach the state of “one-pointedness on the Ultimate Truth”, we have entered the Dharma door of “non-duality”, a state attained by the Dharma Body Bodhisattvas. Then, “to speak of reaching home will become meaningless, and to say Buddha Recitation is a short cut to attain Buddhahood will become unnecessary.” Why? It is because you have reached a state of non-duality where not only these words do not exist, but the notions as well. You have attained Samadhi of Buddha Recitation, non-duality and a state of the Buddhas.

The above merely intended to give a brief introduction on a small portion of the content of the Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service to illustrate its supremacy. It is indeed a rare opportunity that you have taken your precious time from your busy schedule to attend this Service. I hope you will derive some benefit from this and not leaving empty-handed. I have given lectures explaining The Complete Collection of Zhong Feng Thrice Buddhist Yearning Service in detail. Recently, a fellow practitioner has compiled a condensed version of it to facilitate easy understanding. It is helpful if you have read it in advance to have an insightful contemplation of the meaning of the text. If you didn’t have time to study the content, but if you could follow the guidance of this book with utmost sincerity, you would be able to obtain extraordinary benefit from this Service as well. “True sincerity will bring about response and connection”, and true wisdom will naturally arise from within. This Service can really benefit the living and the deceased, protect the world and alleviate disasters. The merits are truly supreme!

Finally, I wish this Service every success and that everyone will attain Dharma joy with infinite wisdom and longevity! My best wishes for prosperity and stability to the United Kingdom and its people! My best wishes for world peace and Great Harmony! Thank you.