Thank you, dear friends, for your practice. To begin my talk tonight,
I would like for us to learn a very ancient beautiful chant, which is
popular especially in China, and instead of doing the Chinese version,
we will do the original Sanskrit version of this chant. It is called
the Pure Land Rebirth dharani. A dharani is a powerful, long mantra,
and so you could also call it the longer Amitabha mantra, if you like.
As with any mantra, a dharani has spiritual significance in the sounds
that you are chanting, and there is a surface, literal meaning, but
that surface, literal meaning is not the true power of the chant. So
even though I have given an English surface translation of these
words, they still do not really convey the full power of the actual
chant because the power is in the actual chanting and practice and
sounding of it and allowing the vibrations to permeate our entire body
and mind, our hearts, our whole being.
And as we chant that, we connect to all who have chanted before us,
all who are chanting even now around the world, and we are connecting
to all of their energy. And not only their energy, but we are
connecting to the energy that inspired this chant. We are connecting
to that spiritual enlightened energy that channeled this chant through
human beings for us to appreciate and enjoy.
So, it is a special practice to practice mantras and dharanis, and
this is a powerful one that I really enjoy. I recently learned how to
say it in Sanskrit. This summer I was at a Chinese monastery where
they did this chant in the Chinese version, and I had to memorize
that. It was very hard in Chinese, but I learned it, and then I felt
inspired to learn it in the original Sanskrit. And so I consider this,
like the mantra Amitabha, to be a gift.
You know, in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition, in one of the forms
called Shin, Jodo Shinshu or just Shin Buddhism in Japan, they have a
slightly different take on the interpretation of what the meaning of
Amitabha and Pure Land are, which I think is very interesting. Instead
of thinking that we are trying to chant and we are trying to gain
merit and positive energy and we are trying to be reborn in a Pure
Land and we are trying to make sure that we're going to be on the path
of enlightenment, when ever we hear our voice say, "Namo Amitabha
buddhaya," or just simply, "Amitabha," we are not the one
chanting. It is the Buddha who is calling out to us, but using our
voice to say the name, Amitabha.
So it is not really our self-efforts, our ego efforts. Every time we
chant, that is a gift from the enlightened ones, and we just happen to
be channeling it through our voice. So really, it is not actually
about us chanting. It is about hearing. It is about hearing the name,
hearing this word that symbolizes the wisdom and compassion of all
enlightened ones, all the support of the universe, and all the
brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity evolving together
spiritually. That is what it means. So we're hearing it.
So as we are chanting, don't think of it as you self-efforting,
chanting, and you are doing a good thing. No. You are just relaxing,
resting, and allowing the chants to come through your voice, and you
are hearing the infinite light saying, "I love you." That is another
meaning of Amitabha. Infinite light means infinite love. I love
you. You are loved. You are precious.
This is the same name that Jesus heard, you see, when he was
baptized. He was practicing, too, hearing, listening, and that is
really our practice. It is not so much we are doing as it is we are
hearing. We are listening. We are allowing. We are receiving. So our
practice, even though it looks like a doing, it is really a
receiving. And so as Jesus just surrendered himself to this baptism,
he heard the voice, "You are my beloved," and that is what we all hear
when we practice baptism, too, in a spiritual sense.
When we allow mindfulness to wash away all of the crazy stress and
worries and ego-driven desires and the chaos of the things that we
have co-created in this world, and we can just let the baptism of
mindfulness wash through us, wash away all of that unnecessary stuff,
then we become receptive, and we can hear the voice. And it is not
that the voice says, "I love you," only in that moment, but it has
been saying that from eternity past till now, and it is the same
beautiful message that has always been there, but now because we've
let ourselves be washed through in the practice of mindfulness, we can
actually now hear it and receive it.
So when I started practicing this chanting of Amitabha a few years ago
and using it in my meditation practice, breathing in, breathing out
with the mantra Amitabha--and there are different ways you can do
it. You can do breathing in, Namo, breathing out, Amitabha, or even
just breathe in, Ami, breathe out, Tabha. You can breathe in, Ah,
breathe out, Mi, breathe in, Ta, breathe out, Bha, or whatever.
But as I began practicing with this, I had an experience one morning
during meditation where I just suddenly felt like a breeze just gently
washed through me, and I just felt so at peace, and I just let go into
this reality that gave rise to such joy in my heart. It was this
realization that I do not have to struggle to guarantee my
enlightenment. It is not like, I had better meditate today or else. It
was more like, oh, enlightenment is a gift, life is a gift, and the
fact that I even know how to sit in a lotus posture to meditate is a
gift. And the fact that I even learned about Amitabha as a mantra is a
gift, the fact that I can breathe in and breathe out in the gift, and
I just realized that everything is a gift, so there is nothing
actually to worry about.
It is already guaranteed. My enlightenment is assured. And that pure,
inner knowing shows how needless all of the worry and the stress and
the overcompensating and trying so hard to be worthy are. I just let
it all melt away. It just melted away in that time, in the morning,
and I was so happy, and I realized that is the meaning of Amitabha.
It does not mean that I don't stop practicing, and it does not mean
that I stop meditating. It does not mean that I don't do what I do,
but now I know what I am doing is because it is a gift. It does not
come from me, but it was inspired by the universe. The fact that I am
in a human body, that is not my idea. I assure you it is not my
idea. It is a gift of the universe, and this practice is a gift, and
this chant is a gift. Amitabha is a gift, and this dharani is also a
gift, because a few weeks ago when I started to memorize it, I felt
all of this beautiful energy, and I could not help but chant it
throughout the day at the moment, even going to the bathroom.
And so, why did they come to me at this time? I do not know, but I see
it as a gift that heaven just dropped into my heart at this time for
whatever reason, and now I have it. See, I do not think of it as I
decided it to learn how to chant this, I decided to set it to music, I
decided to share with everyone. No. I do not think of it that way. The
universe inspired it, and I just happened to be receptive enough to
receive it as a gift, and for whatever reason, while I was trying to
memorize this, I thought to myself, did this thought come from me?
Where do thoughts come from anyway?
I believe it was an inspired thought that came to me. Why not set it
to music? And so I thought, wow, that is a lot of syllables to set to
music, and yet what came to me was the melody of an ancient chant that
we actually did this evening, aum mani padme hum. Aum mani
padme hum, aum mani padme hum, aum mani padme hum, aum mani padme
hum. It is a very beautiful, ancient melody, and so I thought, oh,
let's see if that will fit with these syllables, and sure enough, it
And so I felt what an inspiration, what a gift. Though I would like to
share with you as I would like us to receive the gift of this dharani,
which is the gift of the Buddha Amitabha, which is a gift of all the
enlightened Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe, which is a gift
of the whole divine source of all. I believe that as we chant this, it
will help us to enter more deeply and get in touch more deeply with
the Pure Land.
What does the Pure Land mean? It means the energy field of positive
merit, of enlightenment. See, every enlightened one radiates an energy
field of positive merit. I shared this with people on Saturday. Maybe
I will share it again. It is like this: as we practice meditation and
mindfulness thing and do good deeds and practice generosity and loving
kindness and all of these wonderful things, what happens is we wipe
clean the negative karma that has accumulated, and we support the
positive merit. We call it merit in Buddhism. Merit. Positive energy.
Now, most of the time most of this merit needs to go to us because we
really need it, right? So we do a lot of these practices to help
accumulate positive merit to help us so that we are not always
obstructing and self-sabotaging ourselves. Has anyone ever self
sabotaged yourself? You do all the good things, and then you sabotaged
it with something else that negated it. If you can create more
positive energy and merit, you have less of that tendency and less bad
karmic consequences that obstruct you.
Julie: So is it like watering your good seeds and kind of washing away the negative that's accumulated?
ChiSing: Yes. It is like watering your good seeds and taking
care of the negative seeds and erasing them so that they heal and go
back into neutrality. So you see, we also can offer our merit
others. We can offer the positive good of our practice to others, and
this is what the Buddhas do.
For instance, what did the Buddha do before he became enlightened? He
practiced meditation. And why? To be enlightened? That is maybe one
reason why he meditated. But what did the Buddha do after he was
enlightened? He still meditated until the day he passed on. Why?
Because he does not need to accumulate good merit for himself
anymore. He does not need to meditate to become enlightened. He is
already enlightened. Why did he keep meditating? Because he did it for
you and me, for all of us, for all beings so that instead of just the
merit going just to himself––he does not need it for himself
now, so everything he does now, from enlightenment forward, is only
for others, is to help radiate the energy field, that Buddha field,
and that Pure Land all around him so that many beings can benefit from
So that is what all the Buddhas of the universe do. They did not need
anything for themselves anymore, and they are just offering it to all
beings. And so what is our part? Our part is to stop stubbornly
resisting their help. Our part is to consciously access all the
positive merit that has accumulated in the universe from the
enlightened ones and use it, instead of striving and struggling so
hard to reinvent the wheel. The wheel has already been invented. The
Dharma wheel is already in motion. So you do not need to work so hard
at reinventing the wheel. It is already there. So utilize it.
Now as we practice, because we are baby Buddhas, we also can
accumulate positive merit for ourselves and simultaneously offer merit
to others. We do not have to wait to be fully enlightened to offer
merit to others. You can start right now, because who you truly are at
the core is already enlightenment, and as you are expressed as a human
being, you are a baby Buddha. Even if you're not a full Buddha yet,
you're still a Buddha in a sense, a baby Buddha, so you have your own
little Pure Land, too, your energy field, your love and light that
radiates from your heart.
So you can offer your merit to others in every in breath and out
breath, in every mindful step, every time you sit, and every time you
chant. So I encourage us to practice this chanting not just for us,
but as a way of receiving the merit that is already there from the
Buddhas and as we chant, to just offer your merit to others.
So in a way you never need to create the merit for yourself. Did you
know that? I mean, in reality, you don't have to create for yourself
because others have already created it for you, so all you have to do
is receive that good merit that has been created for you. So as you
practice, what happens is that you are not really practicing for
yourself. You’re practicing for others. So really every time you
meditate, every time you chant, every time you do some spiritual good
practice of some sort, you are not really needing to do it to
accumulate good for you because the good for you is already available
for you from others, from the enlightened ones.
So really your practice is really more about offering. So in actuality
your real practice is just giving, just offering the merit to others
without any need of feeling afraid of, I cannot give away my merit. I
need it for myself. You know? I don't know. When I first heard about
merit in a Buddhist temple, I was like, oh I really need to do good
and get merit, and at the end of the meditations and chanting they
said, "Now offer all of your merit to so-and-so, so-and-so, and
so-and-so." I was like, "I don't want to give all of that away. I need
some of it for myself."
But I didn't understand at that time the reality and the truth that I
do not need to hold any good merit for myself that I create because
others already gave me their merit, and so whatever good merit I am
experiencing, it is because someone else gave it to me. Others gave it
to me. The Buddhas gave it to me. The universe gives it to me. Life
divine is eternally giving itself to me. And so, why do I meditate and
chant? Why do I do good spiritual deeds? It is not for myself. It is
so that I can just offer it to others.
It is like what Jesus said. "Freely you have received, so freely
give." See, Jesus was the Buddha. Freely you are receiving, so freely
give. That is it. Giving and receiving is the core of reality. That is
why we practice breath meditation. Breathing in, receiving. Breathing
out, giving. Receiving and giving. It has always been there the whole
time, since you were born and until the day you die, the message is
right there. Just because the message is not in English does not mean
the message is not there.
You know, we think that the divine should talk to us in English. But
let me tell you, that is not the way it is. The real reality is we
need to learn the language of the divine, not the other way
around. The universe is constantly speaking to us in the language of
the universe. And here we are, these puny little humans. "Well, you
should talk to me in English." No. No. No. It is the other way
around. The vast universe…
It is our responsibility to learn the language of the universe because
the universe is constantly speaking, and the universe is speaking in
the language of the in breath and of the out breath, receiving and
giving. The universe is speaking the language of circumstances,
connections with people. So do not try to force God or the universe or
the Buddha is to speak to you in plain English. It is very foolish. It
is our responsibility to learn the language of the universe and not to
try to arrogantly demand that the universe speak in our puny human
So let us get our priorities correct. Okay. So now let's learn this
mantra. I meant to do it earlier, but I guess we can do it now. So
place your palms together at the heart, or you can just hold your
paper up mindfully. And let us sing after me, okay? We do not always
put an aum front of chants, but I love aum, and it is nice to have an
aum there. And for those who don't know, aum is three sounds, ah, ooh,
mmm. The enlightened body, the enlightened speech, and the enlightened
mind of all the Buddhas and the whole universe.
First, let's just do pronunciation.
Aum Namo Amitabhaya
Amrita Siddham Bhave
I like to think of svaha as yahoo!
So now I am going to do it with the melody, and just repeat after me.
Wonderful. Keep practicing it, and offer the positive energy to every
one around you and all beings, and trust that you do not need to do
any merit to yourself. Just receive the merit that has already been
made for you with every mindful breath, mindful step, mindful
activity, and mindful stillness.
So, thank you so much, and continue to meditate this week on all that
you have received and all that you are receiving. Keep cultivating the
ability to be grateful. Keep cultivating the ability to call to mind
more effortlessly all that is good and that is a gift in your life. Do
not be like a Scrooge, you know, where everything is negative. This is
my suffering. It is all I see.
Note that through practicing mindfulness and chanting mindfully, we
just let it go, let it down, and put it back into perspective. It does
not mean we do not have negativities and hardships and difficulties
and suffering in life, but it is not everything. It is just a part of
life, and there is so much to be grateful for, so many much more
positive things in the universe.