Practicing Filial Piety and Repaying Kindness:
the Foundation of Pure Land Cultivation
In the Visualization Sutra, The Buddha taught us three basic requirements, the Three Conditions, to be born into the Western Pure Land. The First Condition includes being filial and respectful toward parents, teachers and elders, being compassionate and not killing any living being and practicing the Ten Good Conducts. Master has always taught that Buddhism is an education and it is based on the foundation of filial piety. How can we trust the sincerity of people if they do not respect and nurture their parents? How would they be able to respect sentient beings if they are not able to respect their teachers?
Filial piety does not just mean taking care of our parents physical needs, but also fulfilling their aspirations. It is also the basis for Chinese tradition. We need to expand from this foundation by respecting and nurturing not only our parents, but also all parents. If we can respect all sentient beings throughout the universe because they are our past parents, protect our environment and value all affinities and conditions then we practice filial piety to perfection.
In Confucianism, filial piety is limited to our family, group or country. In Buddhism, filial piety is expanded to include all the infinite beings in the universe. The reason why every Buddhist practitioner generates the Four Great Vows daily is this expansive, inexhaustible broadmindedness. The first Vow, “Sentient Beings are innumerable, I vow to help them all” is the infinite extension of filial piety. It is showing that the repaying the great kindness of Buddhism is the development of filial piety of Confucianism.
In Pure Land cultivation we practice filial piety to our parents and teachers and repay the four kinds of kindness for our parents and teachers, country, sentient beings and Buddhas as do all other Buddhist methods. This is why Buddhism was so quickly and enthusiastically accepted when it first came to China. It is perfect and complete in its principles and teachings. Its profound wisdom towards all forms of life, reverence for teachers and their teachings, practice of filial piety, and appreciation for and the repayment of the kindness of others is the primary element for its having flourished in China.
Concentrating on One Method:
the Simple and Direct Path to Achievement
Early in his extensive study of Buddhism, Master Chin Kung initially read works on the basic principles and essential teachings of the Tian-Tai, Hua-Yen, Consciousness Only, Three-discourse methods, etc. He was most fortunate to meet good teachers who were very learned, virtuous and of high reputation, so he was able to quickly build a strong foundation in the teachings. He explains that, “While under the guidance of Professor Dong-Mei Fang, I learned that studying and practicing Buddhism is the greatest enjoyment for humankind. From Living Buddha Master Zhang-Jia, I realized the true meaning of seeing through and letting go.”
Next, Master studied under Mr. Bing-Nan Lee. When Mr. Lee asked him to let go all that he had learned in the past and start afresh, he complied. After ten years of following Mr. Lee’s teachings, Master gained appreciation for the fact that we can attain perfect complete awakening through learning any one sutra, practicing any one of the eighty-four thousand methods. However, it is crucial that beginners choose the one sutra and method that is most suitable for them and concentrate solely on it continuously for many years. Only through this concentrated focus, can we deepen our concentration and uncover our innate wisdom. With this patience and diligence, we will attain achievement, in either worldly teachings or the Buddha’s teachings.
As the creation of the Buddhist Educational College takes shape, so does the curriculum that is designed to follow the wishes of Master Chin Kung. He firmly believes that in our modern society only the Chinese traditional teaching method, as taught by Mr. Lee, is suitable for the education of Buddhist successors. Thus from the beginning of the project, the college, its principles, goals and course design all follow Master’s philosophy.
This Chinese traditional teaching method is to focus and delve deeply into one subject. Master feels that this traditional method is more effective than the one currently used by Buddhist colleges and today’s universities. He explains that, “The goal of a Buddhist College is totally different from that of modern universities. For example, the goal of a medical school is to train doctors; the goal of a law school is to train lawyers, while the goal of a Buddhist college is to learn to be Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The system of management and curriculum of modern education are simply not suitable for Buddhist education.”
If we adopt the modern educational system, we will not only waste money and manpower, but more importantly, we will cause people to lose this opportunity to attain enlightenment, which would be a grave mistake. Therefore, Master advocates that Buddhist colleges should adopt the traditional teaching system of unit-by-unit. Only by following this method, as did all the past patriarchs, will we attain achievement.
Why is the Buddhist educational system ineffective today? Because we have discarded our past to adopt what is popular today, discarded our traditions. The traditional system taught students to develop their concentration but the modern system only teaches students to accumulate information and does virtually nothing to teach them to develop concentration. In short, we get caught up in details and forget the goal, do not see the forest for the trees. How can we hope to achieve?
Practicing Pure Land Buddhism:
the Most Suitable Method for Our Modern Society and Level of Awakening
The Buddha told us that in the Dharma Proper Age, people would achieve practicing precept observation, during the Dharma Semblance Age, people would achieve practicing meditation and that during the Dharma Ending Age, people would achieve practicing Pure Land Buddhism. Knowing this, Mr. Bing-Nan Lee devoted his life to the practice and teaching of the Pure Land method.
At the peak of his teaching career, approximately two hundred thousand Pure Land practitioners were following the teachings of Mr. Lee. His style of teaching was very flexible and creative as he guided people according to their level of understanding. Highly respected, he was a role model for all as his life reflected what he taught.
Under Mr. Lee’s guidance, Master realized that the Pure Land method was the most suited to our time and subsequently dedicated his life to propagating the Pure Land method. He understands that a Buddhist scholar, may be widely read in the teachings and seem to know everything but be unable to solve the fundamental problems of birth, old age, sickness, and death, unable to help all sentient beings transcend reincarnation. Now that we are in the Dharma Ending Age, the Pure Land method is the most suitable to attain achievement in one lifetime and the best way to help all beings.
Today, many people are searching for answers, for the understanding of why we are born, why we live and why we die. Whether in the West or the East, our standard of living is improving, we are accumulating more luxuries but our lives are becoming more frantic as we succumb to stress and despondency. The Buddha teaches us to use sincerity, purity, equality, awakening and compassion to solve our spiritual and mental problems, which are caused by afflictions. He teaches us that, in essence, there is no difference between the Buddha and us, that we all possess the same Buddha nature, that we are all equal.
Some schools of Buddhism are very profound and difficult to understand and thus to practice. In the west, the Zen and Tibetan methods have been well accepted but are more difficult to attain achievement in due to the shortage of highly qualified masters and the obstacles practitioners may encounter.
However, the Pure Land School is both easy and safe to practice. It can be practiced anywhere, anytime. The only requirements for Pure Land practitioners are unwavering belief, sincere vows and diligent cultivation. We can chant “Amituofo” silently or aloud, while sitting, standing, walking or lying down. In our constantly changing times, if we can maintain sincerity of mind, a compassionate heart, the unwavering vow to transcend the cycle of birth and death, the patience to practice over several years and the diligence to see through to the true reality and to let go of attachments; we will achieve. We can then be born into the Western Pure Land carrying over our existing karma.From ancient times till now, sages and patriarchs have said that the Pure Land method is the most difficult to believe, but the easiest to practice. Therefore, Master Chin Kung urges us to truly cultivate, to sincerely chant “Amituofo” without doubt, without intermingling with other methods or thoughts, without interruption, to be constantly mindful of Buddha Amituofo and vow to be born into the Pure Land, to become a Buddha in this lifetime.