Embrace your Ordinary Nature: Be a Down-to-Earth Amitabha-Reciter
It is not easy to find contentment in being ordinary. Many individuals are often hesitant to embrace their ordinariness, thinking, “The realm of the Buddhas is so profound. Now that I have embarked on the path of practicing the Dharma, if I continue to behave like any ordinary person, how can that be considered as genuine practice?”
Those who practice the Pure Land Dharma, in particular, often have doubts. They question how it is possible to attain rebirth simply by reciting the Buddha's name, like some unsophisticated old folk.
The truth is that the most profound aspects lie within the ordinary. As the saying goes, "The greatest way is the simplest way." So, let us embrace our ordinariness. After all, we are mere ordinary beings wandering in samsara, and it is even more crucial for us to find contentment and wholeheartedly commit to living as ordinary people.
One of the Attributes of the Pure Land School states, “Don’t seek extraordinary experiences, but value what is commonplace.” Extraordinary experiences are plentiful. If we lack a clear understanding of the underlying principle of the practice, and merely keep seeking exceptional experiences, it will become an endless pursuit.
And experience often tends to be more emotional than intellectual. If we remain caught in the experience, we risk losing the right understanding and right views, straying from the right path.
Therefore, a practitioner of the Dharma with true faith should rely on the teachings rather than on his personal experience. We should place our trust in the words of the Buddha, adopting his wisdom and perspective as our own, and regarding his realm as our realm.
Let's consider what a person who has awakened to his Buddha nature would be like. He would undoubtedly be very calm, serene and steady, without any pretense, or a sense of superiority. He would treat others as equals.
Therefore, we should not think that simply reciting the Buddha's name is ordinary and insignificant. Nor should we envy those who possess extraordinary knowledge, or the ability to communicate with spirits and access the spiritual realm. We must not entertain such thoughts. Instead we should firmly embrace our ordinary nature.
You should know that once you lose your sense of ordinariness you will enter an extraordinary and rough territory. It will become impossible to lead an ordinary life again.
How can one become a down-to-earth Amitabha-reciter?
Being down-to-earth means living in accordance with one’s true nature and status. It requires consistency in our conduct, regardless of whether we are in public or private. It entails living with honesty and humility, without putting on a facade or acting differently based on the people around us. A down-to-earth Buddha-reciter is someone who leads an ordinary, unpretentious, and uncomplicated life.
A Buddha-reciter must confront his true self honestly. As Master Shandao said, “One must deeply believe that one is an iniquitous ordinary being.” Only through such self-awareness can we get real benefits. That is what we refer to as “having deep faith in the true nature of sentient beings,” which connects us with our authentic state. By reciting the Buddha's name in such a state, without any pretense, we whole-heartedly rely on Amituofo’s deliverance.
Whatever aptitude and capacity we possess, we should recite the Buddha's name according to that aptitude and capacity. Recognizing our ordinary existence, we accept ourselves as ordinary beings. There is no need to act like advanced practitioners or Bodhisattvas.
Master Shandao cautions against outwardly displaying virtue and diligence while harboring falsehood within. Our pursuit of Buddhist study and practice should be sincere, not contrived. There should be no artificiality, falsehood, pretense, or superficial adornment. This is the essence of being down-to-earth.
The ancient masters said, “The world is an illusion; only the Buddha is true.” Hence, practitioners of Amitabha-recitation should approach worldly matters with detachment . We did not bring anything into this world at birth, and take nothing with us upon death.
What can we truly take with us when our final breath approaches? Nothing except our karma. If we do not rely on the power of Amituofo, refuse to believe or accept his deliverance, we will remain bound by our karma, endlessly suffering in the cycle of birth and death.
Those who study the Pure Land Dharma and understand this truth should lead a life of a simple, honest and down-to-earth Buddha reciter.
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings