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How The Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng Was Recognised As Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva’s Manifestation 净土宗十三祖印光大师如何被认定为大势至菩萨的化身

莲风迭扇奏肤功,
万论千经一句融;
势至化身弘净土,
故应念佛证圆通。

— 李慧澄
第十四《诗偈》: 第五偈

With the Lotus Tradition’s wind repeatedly fanning, while [humbly] presenting ‘shallow’ merits, with ten thousand treatises and thousand sūtras in one line [of Āmítuófó] merged. With Great Power Arrived (Mahāsthāmaprāpta) Bodhisattva’s manifestation body propagating the Pure Land teachings, thus knowing there should be mindfulness of Buddha to realise perfect penetration.

— Lǐ Huìchéng
(‘Poems And Verses’ #14: Verse 5)

As titled, we know this to be true due to the following famous accounts, as recorded in the ‘Collection On Eternal Reminiscences Of Great Master Yìnguāng’《印光大师永思集》(along with the opening and closing verses), as edited by Chén Hǎiliàng (陈海量). First, is the ‘Record Of A Dream For Mourning Great Master Yìnguāng’《纪梦悼印光大师》written by Yáng Xìnfāng (杨信芳) on the People’s Republic of China’s 29th year’s (1940 C.E.) 12th month’s 7th day, with its translated version, followed by the original and notes:

When I was 18 years old, attending Shànghǎi Girls’ Secondary School, I had a schoolmate named Miss Zhāng Xiàojuān, who was living at Xīmén Road’s Rùn’ān Village, with me having friendship that was most deep. Her Mother Madam Zhāng, had great kindness for me, and as a personal daughter saw me. Thus did I also with ‘Mother’ call her. After school coming back, I always took food and lodging at the Zhāng house, with this as a constant habit. (余十八岁时,肄业上海女子中学,有同学张孝娟女士,住西门路润安里,与余交谊最深,其母张太太,雅爱余,以亲女视我,故我亦以阿母称之,放学归来,辄膳宿于张家,习以为常。)

In the People’s Republic of China’s 25th year’s (1936 C.E.) 11th month’s 23rd night, I was staying at the Zhāng house, with Xiàojuān sharing a bed. In the middle of the night sleeping away, from afar, I saw Guānyīn Bodhisattva Mahāsattva standing on a small island. Surrounding the island was all of the ocean, with the water and sky having one colour. The Bodhisattva’s body height was a zhàng (about 3.33 metres) perhaps, with a necklace adorned, and a hand holding a pure vase, like that the world would paint. (民国廿五年国历十一月廿三夜,余宿张家,与孝娟共榻。中宵睡去,遥见观音大士立小岛上,环岛皆海,水天一色,大士身长丈许,璎珞庄严,手持净瓶,如世所绘。) [Note 1: A dream especially auspicious and vivid is most likely genuinely inspired by the enlightened. Also, if that dreamt about was never much on the mind before, the dream is likely to convey a special and significant message.]

I was then on a small leaf-like boat within, with the boat sailing, approaching the island. The Bodhisattva beckoned with her hand and told me, ‘Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva is now at Shànghǎi teaching and transforming sentient beings. Why are you confused, not going to listen to the Dharma?’ I was without that to answer. (余则在一叶扁舟中,舟驶近岛,大士招手告余曰:’大势至菩萨现在上海教化众生,汝何昏迷,不去闻法?’ 余无以答。) [Note 2: Her inability to understand and reply ‘expressed’ her confusion. Yet, it is with knowledge that she will be able to understand the message clearly later, that the dream was inspired.]

The Bodhisattva again said, Venerable Yìnguāng is Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva’s manifested body. Four years later, his conditions for transforming will be complete!’ As her words ended and she became concealed, suddenly, swelling waves filled the sky, as the boat nearly capsized, I loudly called for help to save my life. (大士又曰:’印光和尚是大势至化身,四年后化缘毕矣!’ 言讫而隐,忽骇浪滔天,舟几覆,余大呼救命。) [Note 3: What presented was a revelation with a prediction. After manifestations of enlightened beings have completed their missions with available karmic affinities, they will manifest departure, although they can continue to manifest in other ways known and unknown by us. After delivering the message, the ocean, which can be taken to represent the ocean of birth and death became stormy, perhaps functioning as a physical and spiritual wake-up call, to pay attention to the Dharma before it is too late.]

Xiàojuān pushed me awake and said, ‘Xìnfāng, is it that you are having a nightmare?’ I told her regarding the dream, and with each other, we had a laugh. (孝娟推余醒曰:’信芳汝其魇耶?’ 余告以梦,相与一笑。) [Note 4: The dream was probably not taken very seriously at first.] Early next morning, with the dream, I told Madam Zhāng, also asking if there is a Bodhisattva named Great Power Arrived or not, and a Venerable named Yìnguāng. (翌晨,以梦告张太太,并问有否菩萨名大势至,有和尚名印光者乎。) Madam Zhāng, who had strong faith in Buddhism, in surprise said, ‘Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva is a Bodhisattva of the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss. About Venerable Yìnguāng’s name, in the past, I once heard of it from Xiàojuān’s Father, saying that he is Mount Pǔtuó’s high monastic, who has attained the path.’ (张太太固信佛,惊曰:’大势至乃西方极乐世界之菩萨。印光和尚之名,昔曾闻诸孝娟之父,云是普陀山得道高僧。’) [Note 5: The dream began to prove true in two aspects, with the Bodhisattva and Venerable, who were never heard of before, both existing in real life.]

I asked, ‘Is Venerable Yìnguāng now at Shànghǎi?’ Madam Zhāng said, ‘I do not know.’ (余问印光和尚今在上海耶?张太太曰:’不知。’) I, with this, was confused. The next day, when reading Shēnbào (Shànghǎi News), I saw that there was publication of an announcement of the Bǐngzǐ year’s ‘Dharma Assembly For Protection Of The Country And Cessation Of Disasters’, then knowing that a famous Shànghǎi person had invited Venerable Yìnguāng to come to Shànghǎi’s Juéyuán, to preside over the Dharma assembly. (余为之闷闷。次日读《申报》,见登有丙子护国息灾法会通告,乃知上海闻人请印光和尚来沪在觉园主持法会。) [Note 6: The dream proved prophetically true (in advance), with confirmation that the Venerable will be in Shànghǎi.]

So remarkable was this dream, that the three of us were amazed to no end. Thus with Madam Zhāng, Mother and daughter together, we went to Juéyuán, to listen to Venerable Yìnguāng speak the Dharma, with the three of us together taking the Threefold Refuge! I received the given Dharma name Huìfēn, with Madam Zhāng named Huìfàn, and Xiàojuān named Huìyīng. (奇哉此梦,三人惊诧不已。乃与张太太母女同赴觉园,听印光大师说法,三人同皈依焉!余蒙赐法名慧芬,张太太慧范,孝娟慧英。)

With shame, my evil obstacles are deep and heavy, yet able to be diligent. Now then, carrying a son and embracing a daughter, for the entire day rushing about, with pure karma increasingly with the wild overgrown! (愧余孽障深重,未能精进,今则携男抱女,终朝碌碌,净业益荒芜矣!) [Note 7: Such is the case for many, whom when younger before, became interested in the Dharma, but with the forming of families (and work) later, becoming overly occupied with worldly responsibilities, some self-chosen and self karmically ‘given’. Thus, regardless of one’s age and situation now, there should be seizing of the moment to study and practise the Dharma as much as possible, before it becomes too late, with even more regrets later.]

Yesterday receiving my Sūzhōu friend’s letter, saying that Great Master Yìnguāng had already sat and departed at Mount Língyán [in 1940 C.E.]. Alas, Great Master had departed! After conditions of transforming for four years, completely according to my past dream. I with the Great Master had a fragment of incense’s and fire’s cause and condition, that cannot be without words shared. Shedding tears and rapidly writing, with words not forming text, sending this to Shànghǎi’s ‘Awakening Sentient Beings’ Fortnightly’ for publication, relying on the magazine for my mourning. Homage to and refuge for life in Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva! (昨得苏友书,云印光大师已坐化于灵岩山。嗟夫,大师逝矣!化缘四年,竟符昔梦。余与大师有一段香火因缘,不可无词,垂泪走笔,语不成文,寄上海《觉有情半月刊》发表,藉志余哀。南无大势至菩萨!) [Note 8: With the Great Master’s departure on time as predicted in the dream, this means that not only was the dream truly inspired by Guānyīn Bodhisattva, the Great Master was truly a manifestation of Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva too. In this way, the two companion Bodhisattvas validated each other, so as to inspire all who hear of this, including us now.]

[Editor’s Notes]: Miss Yáng’s record within has the words of ‘Four years later, his conditions for transforming will be complete!’ Formerly, there was doubt on why she did not on an earlier day send it for publication, yet certainly with waiting for the day of the Great Master’s return to the Western Pure Land, to then announce it to the world. (【编者按】杨女士记中有‘四年后化缘毕’之语。尝疑曷弗早日发表,而必俟诸大师西归之日,始布于世。)

Until reading Miss Yáng’s ‘Letter Sent To Gentleman Shī’, then knowing she once received Great Master’s chiding, saying she must not tell others. [Gentleman Shī is layperson Shī Jièyuán.] (迨阅女士《致施君书》,乃知其曾遭大师呵斥,不许告人也。[施君即是施戒园居士。] ) The amazing part of this dream, is that it consists of the female student yet to hear the Buddha’s Dharma. Moreover, not knowing there are the names of Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva and Venerable Yìnguāng. For Miss Yáng to connect to this dream, her good roots are naturally not ordinary. If not having this dream, which person would know the compassionate vows of the Bodhisattva Of Boundless Light? (是梦之奇,在于未闻佛法之女生,且不知有大势至与印光和尚之名,女士感是梦,善根自不凡。不有是梦,孰知无边光之悲愿哉!) [Note 9: If we feel a connection to this case, and see it to be inspiring, our good roots are perhaps not so lowly.]

Next, is an excerpt from the above ‘Letter Sent To Layperson Shī Jièyuán’《致施戒园居士书》written by Yáng Xìnfāng on the People’s Republic of China’s 29th year’s (1940 C.E.) 12th month’s 8th day, a day after:

Yesterday, when elder sister Xuěyún from Sūzhōu sent a letter, with shock, I learnt that old Dharma Master Yìnguāng had to the Western [Pure Land returned, also hearing Shànghǎi’s ‘Awakening Sentient Beings’ Fortnightly’ to be for my teacher, publishing a special commemorative publication. My sister Xuěyún instructed Xìnfāng to be with my teacher’s cause and condition recorded and published, to then not betray the compassionate heart of Guānyīn Bodhisattva Mahāsattva, for manifesting in my dream… Alas! Teacher is now gone. In Eternal Still Light within, may he forgive and not blame me for being meddlesome! (昨雪筠姊自苏来书,惊悉印光老法师西归,并闻上海《觉有情半月刊》为吾师出纪念专刊。筠姊嘱芳与师之因缘记出登刊,方不负观音大士示梦之悲心也。… 嗟乎!师今去矣。常寂光中,谅不责我多事耶!) [Note 10: Since the Great Master had departed already, there was no harm in sharing what happened, especially since it is helpful for inspiring the masses. It would be living up to the compassionate spirit of all Bodhisattvas, also not letting Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva down. Just as Guānyīn Bodhisattva wanted to inspire her, she wanted to inspire others.]

I recollect that in the People’s Republic of China’s 26th year’s (1937 C.E.) spring, I went to Sūzhōu to visit my teacher, telling him accordingly, with my dreamscape. (When at Juéyuán, with circumstances of people being cluttered thus, I have yet to speak to him about it.) Teacher scolded me, saying, ‘Do not blindly speak! Do not blindly speak! With the ordinary abusing the noble, this attracts others’ slander. Of this dream, furthermore, I do not allow you to speak of it to others. Otherwise, you are not my disciple!’ (忆二十六年春,赴苏州谒吾师,告以梦景(在觉园时,因人杂沓故未说)。师斥曰:’莫瞎说!莫瞎说!以凡滥圣,招人毁谤。此梦更不许汝对人说,否则非我弟子!’) [Note 11: Especially as a true Bodhisattva, the Great Master was adhering to the Buddha’s instructions, as taught in the ‘Śūraṅgama Sūtra: Section With Pure And Clear Instructions: Passage On False Speech’《楞严经》(清净明诲章:妄语篇):

After my Parinirvāṇa, I order all Bodhisattvas and Arhats, to manifest bodies to be born within that Dharma-Ending Age, to become all kinds of forms, to deliver all from rebirth. Perhaps becoming Śramaṇas, white-robed laypersons, kings, officials, young males, young females. As such, and even as licentious women, widows, adulterers, thieves, butchers and peddlers, with them together working, praising the Buddha Vehicle, to enable their bodies and minds to enter Samādhi. To the end, not self-saying, “I am a true Bodhisattva, a true Arhat”, to divulge the Buddha’s secret cause, to lightly speak so to those yet to learn. Only except at life’s end, secretly having that left for entrusting. Why would these persons, confuse sentient beings, by accomplishing great false speech?’

「我灭度后,敕诸菩萨及阿罗汉,应身生彼末法之中,作种种形,度诸轮转。或作沙门、白衣居士、人王宰官、童男童女,如是乃至淫女寡妇、奸偷屠贩,与其同事,称赞佛乘,令其身心入三摩地。终不自言:『我真菩萨、真阿罗汉』,泄佛密因,轻言未学。唯除命终,阴有遗付。云何是人,惑乱众生,成大妄语?」

To summarise and elaborate, the Buddha taught that truly manifested Arhats, Bodhisattvas (and even Buddhas) will never disclose their actual identities, especially in this Dharma-Ending Age, when there will be increasingly more who falsely claim to be enlightened. As skilful means to help as many as possible, the enlightened should manifest all kinds of forms, except as enlightened beings. They can even manifest as the apparently immoral, who do not truly break precepts, to skilfully blend in with the immoral, so as to guide them towards the path to Buddhahood. They will not say they are enlightened, for if they do, anyone else can disobey the Buddha’s instruction, to do so too, to attract confused followers with false claims, when they should be attracted with the pure Dharma and good personal conduct only.

This also means that anyone who claims to be enlightened, a manifestation or spokesperson of the enlightened is directly a fraud, doing so for gathering fame and profit. Those with such lies are destined for the lowest hell. Historically, as seen in many cases, also following the Buddha’s instruction, upon revelation of enlightened beings’ manifestations’ actual identities, be it by themselves or others, they will have to depart immediately. If otherwise, they would be disobeying the Buddha’s instruction, and might be slandered to be frauds, who are staying in the world to win and indulge in more worldly favours.

Interestingly, the Great Master did not say he is a Bodhisattva or not; only directly warning not to speak of the dream further. To disobey his warning is the same in spirit as to disobey the Buddha’s instruction. If he were to say he is a Bodhisattva, following the Buddha’s instruction, he would have to depart immediately, thus unable to continue his mission to teach and transform others. If he were to say he is not a Bodhisattva, he would be having false speech, which is to break a major precept, which Great Bodhisattvas will never do. Although in reverse, as a noble being properly manifesting as an ordinary being, and saying that ‘with the ordinary abusing the noble’ attracts others’ slander, he did not say he is just an ordinary being or actually a noble being. What he said and did not say were part of his skilful means as a true Bodhisattva. He also did not want anyone to possibly create much negative karma by slandering him, to be an ordinary being abusing the status of a noble being, since he truly is a noble being!]

Xìnfāng obeyed teacher’s warning, yet to dare to, with this dream publicly tell others. Even before my husband, Xìnfāng also has yet to mention it. Only to two to three relatives and friends within, briefly speaking of it only. My mind still secretly thought, believing that if my teacher after this abided in this world, if for four years, then is he as Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva riding on his vows to again come, without doubt. Now also is four years later, as he really, uprightly seated then departed. In the moment of hearing this news, I could not help having tears like a spring welling, self-resenting to have good roots shallow and thin, once face to face with him, yet missing him. (芳遵师诫,未敢以此梦公开告人。即先生前,芳亦未尝提及也。仅于二、三戚友间,略言之耳。心尚窃意,以为吾师此后住世,如果四载,则为乘愿再来之大势至无疑。今也四载,果端坐而化矣。闻讯之下,不禁泪如泉涌,自恨善根浅薄,觌面错过。) [Note 12: This is the final proof, with the Great Master departing with ease and on time, thus fulfilling the dream’s prediction.]

Finally, is a related explanatory excerpt from ‘Reply Regarding Great Master Yìnguāng’s Manifestation Of Sickness’《关于印光大师示疾的答覆》by Dharma Master Língguāng (灵光法师):

Recently, there are many people, who are not able to understand how noble beings are with benefitting of sentient beings eager, to bestow with skilful means’ principles. Regarding ‘Awakening Sentient Beings’ Fortnightly’ that recorded Miss Yáng Xìnfāng’s ‘Record Of A Dream For Mourning Great Master Yìnguāng’s text, thereupon giving rise to a question. They came to ask me, saying, ‘Since Great Master Yìnguāng is Great Power Arrived Bodhisattva’s manifested body that again came, then his life, is then riding on his vows’ power then coming; his death also, is then accordingly with liberation then departing. For what reason, before his departure, was his physical strength also having unwellness?’ (近来有许多人,不能明白圣人利物心切,曲垂方便的道理,对于《觉有情半月刊》所载,杨信芳女士《记梦悼印光大师》文,遂发生了问题。来问我道:’印光大师既是大势至菩萨化身再来,则其生也,便是乘愿力而来;其殁也,便是顺解脱而去。何故圆寂之前,体力亦有不适耶?’)

Thus, I then like this replied, ‘It must be known that of the Bodhisattva’s manifested body as Great Master Yìnguāng, his reason, therefore, for wanting to manifest sickness, is none other than for admonishing the masses, for each and every one to know that they themselves are in this world of Five Defilements with evil and inferiority. In the end, it is difficult to avoid the suffering of sickness and death, and they must also rely on mindfulness of Buddha, then with its inconceivable power, then able to ultimately reach the goal of departure from suffering to attain bliss. (于是我便这样的答道:’要晓得菩萨化身的印光大师,他所以要示疾的缘故,无非是为警策大众,各各知道自己在这个五浊恶劣的世界上,终是难免病死之苦,必也藉念佛而不可思议的力量,始能究竟达到离苦得乐之目的。) [Note 13: The Great Master’s manifesting of sickness despite being actually free of it is to remind all others who are not free from sickness, that they too must be like him, practise mindfulness of Buddha, just as he, even as a Great Master does. What more, most ordinary beings will depart with some form of serious sickness. Thus, when well, there should be more sincere practice, to prepare for sickness, when there should be all the more sincere practice.]

It should be known that ordinary beings’ sicknesses and deaths, are with confusions and negative karma that are connected. Noble beings’ sicknesses and deaths, are from compassionate vows as conveyed. Sicknesses and deaths that are connected to confusion and negative karma, are with pain and suffering. Sicknesses and deaths as conveyed by compassionate vows, are greatly not the same. Such as layperson Vimalakīrti’s manifesting of sickness, and Śākyamuni Buddha World-Honoured One’s Parinirvāṇa, they all are, due to compassionate vows as conveyed, in reality are without pain and suffering, not more than bestowing with skilful means only. Great Master Yìnguāng’s manifesting of sickness, is likewise thus.’ (当知凡夫的病死,是惑业所感的。圣人的病死,是悲愿所运的。惑业所感的病死,是有痛苦的。悲愿所运的病死,是大大不同的。即如维摩居士的示疾,释迦世尊的涅槃,他们皆是由于悲愿所运的,实际是无痛苦的,不过曲垂方便罢了。印光大师示疾,亦复如是。’)

对机说法避玄谈,
愿把莲宗独力担;
代有异人为教出,
灵峰之后又灵岩。

— 李慧澄
第十四《诗偈》: 第六偈
(第三句用吴梅村语)

According to spiritual capacities speaking the Dharma, avoiding profound discussions, with vows upholding the Lotus Tradition, all by oneself carrying it. This generation had an extraordinary person for the Buddha’s teachings arising, from Spirit Peak [with Mount Língfēng’s Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì (净土宗九祖蕅益大师)] after, again from Spirit Rock [with Mount Língyán’s Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师)].

— Lǐ Huìchéng
(‘Poems And Verses’ #14: Verse 6)
(Third line using Wú Méicūn’s words)

Namo Amituofo : First contributed and published in TheDailyEnlightenment.com

Related Article:

佛敕偈
Verses On The Buddha’s Order
https://purelanders.com/2021/04/28/verses-on-the-buddhas-order

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