One moment of true mindfulness of Buddha
deeply plants the seed for Buddhahood.
More moments of true mindfulness of Buddha
further nurtures the fruit of Buddhahood.
Furthermore, reciting the Buddha’s name establishes a firm foundation and plants good roots. For example, there was once an old man who wanted to leave home. Although he was about seventy or eighty years old, couldn’t get around well, and was aware of his impending death, he thought he could easily leave home and be a High Master of Buddhism. When he arrived at the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary, he found that Shakyamuni Buddha had gone out to receive offerings. His disciples, the Arhat, opened their heavenly eyes and took a look at this man’s past causes. Seeing that he hadn’t done a single good deed in the past eighty-thousand great aeons, they told him he couldn’t leave home. When he heard this, the old man’s heart turned cold and he ran, thinking, ‘If I can’t leave home, I’ll kill myself,’ Just as he was about to throw himself into the ocean, Shakyamuni Buddha caught him and said, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I wanted to leave home,’ cried the man, ‘but the Buddha wasn’t at the Garden, and the great Bhikshus told me that I couldn’t because I have no good roots. My life is meaningless. I’m too old to work, and no one takes care of me. I might as well die.’
Shakyamuni Buddha said, ‘Don’t throw yourself into the ocean. I’ll accept you.’ ‘You will?’ said the man. ‘Who are you? Do you have the authority?’ Shakyamuni Buddha said, ‘I am the Buddha, and those Bhikshus are my disciples; none of them will object.’ The old man wiped his eyes and blew his nose. ‘There’s hope for me,’ he said. The old man’s head was shaved. He became a monk and immediately certified to the first stage of Arhatship. Why? When he heard that he couldn’t leave home, he had decided to drown himself; although he didn’t really die, he was as good as dead. ‘I’ve already thrown myself into the sea,’ he said, and relinquished all his attachment to life. He saw right through everything, won his independence, and certified to the first stage of Arhatship. This bothered the Bhikshus. ‘How strange,’ they murmured, ‘the man has no good roots. We wouldn’t let him leave home, but the Buddha accepted him and now he’s certified to Arhatship. People without good roots can’t do that. Such a contradiction in the Teaching will never do! Let’s go ask the Buddha.’
Then they went before the Buddha, bowed reverently, and asked, ‘We are basically clear-minded. How could that old man without good roots certify to Arhatship? How can the Buddhadharma be so inconsistent?’ Shakyamuni Buddha said, ‘As Arhats, you see only the events of the past eighty thousand aeons ago. More than eighty thousand aeons ago, the old man was a firewood gatherer. One day in the mountains he was attacked by a tiger and quickly climbed a tree. The tiger leaped and snapped his jaws, but missed. This tiger, however, was smarter than the average tiger, “I’ll show you,” it said. ‘I’ll chew through the trunk of the tree and when it falls I’ll eat you. Now, if a mouse can gnaw through wood, how much the more so can a tiger. Tigers can make powder out of human bones. It chewed half way through the tree and terrified the old man whose life was hanging by a thread. Then he remembered, “In times of danger, people recite the Buddha’s name,” and he called out, “Namo Buddha!” which scared the tiger away and saved his life. After that, the old man forgot to recite, and so on this side of eighty thousand great aeons, he failed to plant good roots. However, the one cry of “Namo Buddha” was the good seed which has now ripened and allowed him to leave home and certify to the fruit.’
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