Master Xu Yun’s Discourse on Master Yin Guang (1952)

Masters Xu Yun and Yin Guang
Masters Xu Yun and Yin Guan

Master Xu-yun’s Discourse on the

12 Anniversary of the Death of Dharma-Master Yin-guang,

a Saint of the Pure Land on 21 December 1952.


Today is the twelfth anniversary of the death of the late Dharma-Master Yin-guang, who was reborn in the Western Paradise (of Amitabha). All of you, his disciples, have gathered in this hall to celebration the occasion. As when one drinks water and thinks of its source, so your celebration today is in memory of your fatherly Master. In Buddhism, a Master is the father of one’s Dharmakaya, so to commemorate the death of one’s Master is to have filial thoughts of him. This filial piety is much deeper than that towards one’s parents. I still remember meeting the Master on Pu-tuo Island in the twentieth year of Emperor Guang-xu (1894). He had been asked by Abbot Hua-wen to expound the Sutra of Amitabha at Qian-se Temple and stayed there for over twenty years to read the Tripitaka. He isolated himself to practice the Pure Land method, and although he was an authority on the Buddhist Sutras, he used only the word ‘Amitabha’, which was recited in his daily practice. He never pretended that, with his deep knowledge of the sutras, he could slight and dispense with this simple practice of the Pure Land School.

All expedient methods taught by the Buddha are good for treating worldly illnesses and the recitation of the Buddha’s name is an agada (medicine) that cures all diseases. However, each of these methods requires a firm faith, an inflexible resolution and considerable practice in order to give good results. If you are strong in faith, you will achieve the same perfection whether you concentrate on mantras, practice Chan or repeat the Buddha’s name.

If you are weak in faith and rely on your tiny good roots, little intelligence and shallow knowledge, or if you memorize a few Buddhist terms or a few gong-ans and then talk aimlessly, praising and censuring others, you will only increase your karma-producing habits and when death closes in, you will follow your karma to transmigrate again in samsara. Is it not a great pity?

As you commemorate the death of your Master, you should commemorate his true practice and observance of the Dharma. He was firm in his practice and kept in step with the ancients. He understood Mahasthama Bodhisattva’s means of perfection, which consists of concentrating all thoughts upon the Buddha; he put it into actual practice and thereby realized the state of samadhi which resulted from his concentration upon Amitabha. He then spread the Pure Land Dharma for the benefit of living beings, unflinchingly and without tiring for several decades. Today, you cannot find another man like him.

A true practitioner always avoids discriminating between self and others, but concentrates and relies on the Buddha at all times and in all situations. He firmly holds on to this single thought of the Buddha, which is intimate and unbroken, until it becomes effective and causes the manifestation of Amitabha’s Pure Land from which he will enjoy all benefit. In order to realize this, one’s believing mind should be firm and set solely on remembering Amitabha Buddha. If one’s believing mind wavers, nothing can be achieved.

For instance, if someone says that Chan is better than Pure Land, you try Chan and stop reciting the Buddha’s name; then if others praise the Teaching School, you read the sutras and drop Chan meditation; or if you fail in your studies of the teachings, you concentrate upon mantras instead. If you practice the Buddhadharma in this way, you will be confused and achieve no result. Instead of blaming yourself for this ineffectual practice, you will accuse the Buddha of deceiving living beings; by so doing, you will slander the Buddha and vilify the Dharma, thereby creating an intermittently (Avici) hellish karma.

Therefore, I urge all of you to have faith in the profitable practice of the Pure Land School and to follow the example set by your late Master, whose motto was, ‘Only sincere recitation of the Buddha’s name,’ to develop an inflexible resolution, to develop a bold mind, and to regard the Pure Land as the sole concern of your life.

Chan and Pure Land seem to be two different methods as seen by beginners, but are really one to experienced practitioners. The hua-tou technique in Chan meditation, which puts an end to the stream of birth and death, also requires a firm believing mind to be effective. If the hua-tou is not firmly held, Chan practice will fail. If the believing mind is strong, and if the hua-tou is firmly held, the practitioner will be mindless of even eating and drinking, and is training will take effect. When sense-organs disengage from sense data, his attainment will be similar to that achieved by a reciter of the Buddha’s name when his training becomes effective and when the Pure Land manifests in front of him. In this state, noumemon and phenomenon intermingle, Mind and Buddha are not a duality and both are in the state of suchness which is absolute and free from all contraries and relativities. Then what difference is there between Chan and Pure Land?

Since you are all adherents of the Pure Land School, I hope you will rely on the Buddha’s name as your support in your lifetime and that you will truly and sincerely recite it without interruption.

(Empty Cloud: Translated By Charles Luk – Revised by Richard Hunn, Element Books (1988) – Pages 152-154)


Ch’an Comment:  As there is nothing outside of the mind that perceives it, all has the empty mind ground as its foundation.  Chanting, quietly meditating, walking, singing, eating, resting, and all kinds of activities do not depart from it.  This being the case, it is the discriminating mind that weighs humanity down and prevents a clear perception of reality.  If the mind discriminates, then neither Ch’an nor Pure Land will save you!

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