If we are truly mindful,
we will realise that mindfulness of Buddha
is the most skilful of means that the Buddha ever taught.
A friend of mine was once bold enough to tell a well-known Tripitaka Master of the Pure Land Sect that, in his opinion, recitation of the sacred name [e.g. (Namo) Amituofo, Namo Guanshiyin Pusa] is a practice too mechanical to be spiritually effective. ‘Mechanical!; echoed the Master, immensely surprised, ‘How can that be?’ Gazing at my friend as though wondering whether he were perhaps dealing with a lunatic, he continued, ‘Cleaving to the sacred name results smoothly and easily in one-pointedness of the mind – the very state which is sought so arduously by meditators belonging to all the eight schools of Buddhism, to say nothing of Taoists, Hindus and others outside the Dharma. Attaining one-pointedness, you will, sooner or later according to your capacity, see the Buddha or Bodhisattva [who one is mindful of] standing before you – a living being, garments fluttering, breast rising and falling with the breath of life; or, if that is not what you look for, you will enter the non-dual state and discover that, here in this world of form, you have attained to the great Void. Then you will know tangible forms for what they are – bubbles, mirages, dreams. Just as you are not now deceived by those snowy mountains hanging in the sky, knowing them as you surely do for clouds, so will you recognise each object as no-thing, not unreal, but ever-changing, transient, devoid of own-being.’
‘Good, Venerable, but what if I do behold the Buddha [or Bodhisattva] standing before me, garments fluttering in the breeze? Beautiful and satisfying as that might be, would it not be just another illusory appearance?’ When the Tripitaka Master, overtaken by a gale of laughter, had recovered something of his gravity, he said pointedly: ‘To certain people stuck like flies in the web of intellect, the experience should be especially edifying [uplifting]. Beholding your own thought-form [as a reflection of one’s own Buddha-nature too] smiling down at your bewilderment, surely you would reflect: ‘Since with my own mind I am able to create a beautiful form, is there a single thing mind does not create, including this sky, this hill, this sea?’ No longer will you doubt what is said in the sutras about the nature of this world. Hurrying to your library, if you have one, you will turn to those sutras and at last perceive their wisdom, eyes no longer dimmed by opaque clouds of intellectual vapour. From that day on, you studies will be fruitful!’
My friend was impressed; but, not averse to learning a little more from this forthright monk, he said: ‘Does Your Reverence imply that people who have been spared an education see more clearly than others?’ He replied, ‘They will see the Buddha [or Bodhisattva] as one who has manifested to reward their pious recitations. Rejoicing, they will henceforth recite with redoubled fervour and assuredly be reborn in Pure Land.’ (See related article: Is Pureland Formless or Mind-Only?)