How To Be Mindful Like A Wise Tortoise



If sentient beings’ minds
recollect the Buddha,
and are mindful of the Buddha,
now or in the future,
they will definitely see the Buddha. 

– Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva
(Section On Penetration Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha)

In the Kumma Sutta, the Buddha spoke of a tortoise looking for food, when he saw a jackal also doing so afar. Probably knowing he will be too slow to run or hide, he immediately withdrew his four legs and neck into his shell, remaining perfectly still and silent. Noticing him, the jackal approached, anticipating the stretching of his limbs, so as to eat him. However, as the tortoise did not do so, the jackal lost interest and left.

The Buddha explained that likewise, Māra (as if) anticipates our reaching out to grasp through any of our six senses, with seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking (of stray thoughts), so as to ‘catch’ us doing so, to further disturb us from our spiritual practice. Thus, should we guard our sense doors well. Not having any opportunity, Māra, who stands for inner and outer demons ‘who’ attempt to distract us will likewise part. 

To cultivate greater calmness and clarity, when seeing forms with the eyes, hearing sounds with the ears, smelling smells with the nose, tasting tastes with the tongue, touching the tactile with the body, or thinking thoughts with the mind, we should not grasp at any of the sensed in any way. If without restraint over the senses, unskilful qualities such as greed, hatred and delusion might grow, ‘attack’ and overcome us.

In Pure Land Buddhism’s Main Practice (正行), there is no need to guard each sense one by one, or be with constant vigilance of all in an overly busy way. Without need to see or visualise anything, smell any smell, taste any taste, or touch anything, these four senses are ‘deactivated’. As this practice is with mindfulness of the Buddha’s name (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó), only the wholehearted mind is continually used to sound it, with the ears listening wholeheartedly to the sound, forming a complete loop.

With such wholehearted focus, there will be no extra ‘heart’ to mind the unused senses. As taught by Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva (大势至菩萨) in the ‘Section On Penetration Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha’《念佛圆通章》, this is ‘gathering in the six senses, with pure mindfulness in continual succession’ (都摄六根,净念相继). Even with only wholehearted mental reciting, there should also be wholehearted mental hearing.

Practising such control of the senses, not reaching out with them to grasp or reject, Māra, with all greedy, hateful and deluded karmic creditors, will not be able to disturb us, and will soon depart. This is how greed, hatred and delusion will not arise on our part too, while their existing versions in mind will fade in power, as they are transformed with mindfulness of the purest possible, represented by the Buddha’s meritorious and protective name, to become peace, bliss (安乐) and wisdom (智慧) respectively.



With the Buddha not far away,
without use of expedient means,
they will, by themselves, attain awakening of their minds.  

– Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva
(Section On Penetration Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha)  

Related Article:

The Great Buddha Crown’s Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Section
On Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha



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