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Putting All Before One With The Unsurpassable Skilful Means Leads Fastest To Buddhahood 以后其身为最速成佛之无上方便

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此无上菩提心,即是愿作佛心;
愿作佛心,即是度众生心;
度众生心,即摄取众生生净佛国土心。

— 昙鸾大师
《往生论注》

This unsurpassable Bodhi Mind, is the same as the mind with the vow to become a Buddha. This mind with the vow to become a Buddha, is the same as the mind to deliver sentient beings. This mind to deliver sentient beings, is the same as the mind to gather and receive sentient beings to be born in the Pure Buddha Land.

— Great Master Tánluán
(Rebirth Treatise’s Commentary)

In Great Master Tánluán’s (昙鸾大师) Rebirth Treatise’s Commentary《往生论注》, he taught the following on the ultimate skilful means (毕竟方便) to accomplish Buddhahood (成佛) — ‘All explanations of dedication’s name’s meaning, call it to be with those personally collected meritorious virtues, giving them to all sentient beings, to together go towards the Buddha path. That “skilful means”, is called the Bodhisattva vow, to be with one’s wisdom fire, burn all sentient beings’ afflictions’ grass and wood. If there is one sentient being who has not accomplished Buddhahood, I will not become a Buddha.’ (凡释回向名义,谓以己所集一切功德,施与一切众生共向佛道。「巧方便」者,谓菩萨愿以己智慧火,烧一切众生烦恼草木。若有一众生不成佛,我不作佛。)

[Note 1: Our skilful dedication of meritorious virtues now, and even when in Pure Land (净土), should be for all beings to reach Pure Land, so as to most swiftly advance towards Buddhahood. We should also use our wisdom to guide all others to rid their afflictions.]

‘Yet, with sentient beings yet to completely accomplish Buddhahood, Bodhisattvas already personally accomplish Buddhahood. For example, like [wooden] fire tongs, desiring to pick all grass and wood for burning, for this cause exerting completely, with the grass and wood yet to be completely burnt, the fire tongs are already completely burnt.’ (而众生未尽成佛,菩萨已自成佛。譬如火栝,欲摘一切草木烧令使尽,草木未尽,火栝已尽。)

[Note 2: The wood in the tongs represent the Bodhisattvas’ own afflictions, which naturally get burnt up (i.e. eliminated) in their attempts to pick other beings’ afflictions (i.e. wood) for burning. When some sentient beings vow to not attain Buddhahood before all other sentient beings do, this does not mean that there is deliberate restraint from becoming Buddhas. This exemplifies great selfless compassion. As they advance on the Bodhisattva path with it, they will naturally get closer and closer to Buddhahood, and do attain it.

The most skilful Bodhisattvas will become Buddhas as Buddhas are the ones with perfect compassion and wisdom. If all Bodhisattvas do restrain from becoming Buddhas, there will be no Buddhas arising, since all Buddhas were once Bodhisattvas who vowed similarly. However, even ancient Buddhas (古佛) can remanifest as Great Bodhisattvas (大菩萨) like Contemplator Of The World’s Sounds Bodhisattva (观世音菩萨) without any spiritual backsliding (退转), to continue exemplifying walking of the Bodhisattva path (菩萨道) most skilfully, thus still living up to their vows.

With putting last of oneself, yet with oneself first, thus is this named as a “skilful means.”‘ (以后其身而身先,故名「巧方便」。)

Note 3: The first half of the sentence is ‘derived’ from Lǎozi’s (老子) Classic Of The Path And Virtue《道德经》, its Chapter 7 (第七章). In it, he wrote that ‘The heavens are long, and the earth lasting. The reason why the heavens and earth are able to be long and lasting, is with them not being for themselves living, thus able to long live. Therefore, with noble persons’ putting last of themselves, yet with themselves first, placing themselves outside of their consideration, yet having themselves surviving. Is this not with themselves being without selfishness, thus able to accomplish themselves?’ (天长,地久。天地之所以能长且久者,以其不自生,故能长生。是以圣人后其身而身先,外其身而身存。非以其无私邪,故能成其私?)

Thus, paradoxically, walking the Bodhisattva path, although seemingly for the benefit of all other beings, first and foremost benefits oneself. The more selfless one is in benefitting others, the more one attains, which makes one more capable of benefitting one and all.]

‘This spoken “skilful means” within, is called making vow to gather and receive all sentient beings, to together be born in that Buddha Land Of Peace And Bliss. That Buddha Land is the same as the ultimate accomplishment of the Buddha path’s unsurpassable skilful means.‘ (此中言「方便」者,谓作愿摄取一切众生,共同生彼安乐佛国。彼佛国即是毕竟成佛道路无上方便也。)

Note 4: Just as we benefit most greatly from being gathered by the Buddha (Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛) to be born in his Pure Land, which expedites our progress towards Buddhahood, we too should use this same and greatest skilful means to guide others, to expedite their progress. This can be done now; not only after reaching Pure Land. As progress to Buddhahood is the swiftest through the Pure Land, it is the supreme skilful means, even for Great Bodhisattvas, to personally advance towards it, and to guide others to it too.]

深信发愿,
即无上菩提。

— 净土宗九祖蕅益大师
《佛说阿弥陀经要解》 

With profound Faith giving rise to the Aspiration [to be born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land], this is the unsurpassable Bodhi [Mind].

— Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì
(Essential Explanation Of The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks On Amitā[bha Buddha])

Related Articles:

The Easiest Way To Give Rise To And Fulfil The Unsurpassable Bodhi Mind
最易发与实践无上菩提心之法
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2023/08/the-easiest-way-to-give-rise-to-and-fulfil-the-unsurpassable-bodhi-mind

What Is Unsurpassable Bodhicitta?
何为无上菩提心?
https://purelanders.com/2020/06/27/what-is-unsurpassable-bodhicitta 

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