Amitabha Buddha’s name chanting is an easy method of cultivation in which beliefs are difficult to have, especially in this age of information technology when people care more about material comfort than the spiritual life. However, as in the Buddha’s teachings: Buddhahood is a nature of mind and it’s the mind that possesses the Buddhahood, ringing about enlightenment. Therefore, as Buddhists, we have to believe in Buddha’s teachings. The Flower Adornment Sutra stated: “Beliefs are the mother of all the good merits.”. No other merits are greater than making a vow to be reborn in the PureLand and to become a Buddha. On the occasion of this year’s retreat, we would like to briefly tell you about an old lady having a belief in Amitabha Buddha’s name chanting. Nothing special but it’s a rare example of Amitabha Buddha’s name chanting that’s worth the appreciation by any religious persons.
On an early day in May, 2008 during our Buddhism promotion trip to America and Canada, I followed Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien, Abbott of Vien Giac Temple, to visit the house of the old lady Dieu Bich who is 90 years old, in Montreal in the South of Canada. On the way, Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien briefly told me about this special lady. Upon arrival, it’s surprising to know that she used to be the owner of BIC Pen Company. But the thing I’ve noticed most was that she was doing Amitabha Buddha’s name chanting assiduously which she’s been doing without any day missing for many years.
This Mrs Duong Xuan Dao, called Hoang Hoa with Dharma name Dieu Bich who was born in a rich family in My Le Quarter, ChoTramVillage, Long An Province in 1919. She had studied in Hong Kong, and came back to Saigon when she was 23 and married Mr. Huynh Hong Giao with Dharma name Minh Chau. They have 3 children (2 son and 1 daughter) living in France, America and Canada. They used to be famous in Saigon in 1975 for BIC pen production.
In Spring 1975 when the war ended, they left Vietnam with their son Mr. Huynh Phuoc Bang (an engineer, 67 years old) to settle down in Montreal, Canada. Since then, they often came to see their daughter in Paris, France. In 1978, during such a visit, Mr. Huynh Hong Giao suddenly died of heart disease. Until then, they did not know anything about Buddhism. However, Mrs Dieu Bich and her family believed in Buddhism by tradition so she came to KhanhAnhTemple to respectfully invite Senior Venerable Thich Minh Tam to help with her husband’s funeral. On the first visit to KhanhAnhTemple, the family could only see Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien who was looking after the Temple on behalf of Senior Venerable Khanh Anh as he was taking care of another Buddhist mission in another continent. Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien at that time had settled down in Germany but came to France sometimes to assist Senior Venerable Khanh Anh with lot of work at the temple and in the Buddhist association. They kindly asked Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien to run the praying sessions for the man. After that, they kept coming to KhanhAnhTemple to help with the weekly ceremonies. Especially, Senior Venerables Thich Nhu Dien and Thich Minh Tam had conducted a solemn Yearly Ceremony for him in Montreal, Canada.
On her husband’s very first week’s anniversary, Mrs. Hong Hoa took the refuge in the Triple Gem and was given Dharma name Dieu Bich. From then, she wholeheartedly prayed for her husband, wishing him to be reborn into a safe realm.
Luckily that during that time she was blessed to read the book Pure Land Great Letters that she borrowed from KhanhAnhTemple. Thanks to reading this valuable book, she made a vow to chant the Amitabha Buddha’s name on November 17th 1980 (December by Lunar Calendar, Year of Monkey), right on the occasion of Amitabha Buddha’s Anniversary. Mrs Dieu Bich has kept record from her first day of Amitabha Buddha’s name chanting up to now by writing in two students’ notebooks. I took photos of these notebooks to keep as souvenir to share with anyone who are related to this school of practice. They are live evidence for 29 years of practice by Mrs Dieu Bich. Every day she has noted down the date and number of rosary by which she knew how many times she had chanted Amitabha Buddha’s name. (Please see the photos). She revealed that at first she vowed to chant Amitabha Buddha’s name and counted 5 rosary (108 beads/each) day per. The number then gradually increased and up to now (2009) she could count 102 rosary per day. Good thing is she did not miss a day in the past 9 years.
Assiduous Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting is a popular method of PureLandSchool. The requirements are: chanting Amitabha Buddha’s Name clearly and firmly; with single mind and wholeheartedness; count the roseryto know exactly the times of chanting (one bead one time); keeping the record after each time of practice; being honest to yourself imaging that you are under the supervision of the Triple Gems andDefenders of Dharma; showing the record to a Monk to be certified on the occasion of Repentance or Bodhisattvas Practice Day. The certification is just the encouragement for the practitioners so that they would be more devoted to the practice. Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting can be supported, reminded and supervised by the Buddhas, Maha Bodhisattvas and especially the Monks. Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien had provided the certification for Mrs Dieu Bich when he visited Canada. Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien is one of the famous overseas PureLand practitioner for his Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting and Prostration Doing. He did prostrations for to each word of Lotus Sutra (about 700,000 prostrations) and he is currently performing prostrations for Mahaparinirvana Sutra (approximately 1,500,000 prostrations). On our visit, Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien HT certified her record of Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting.
Most Venerable Thich Nhu Dien HT was certifying the record of Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chantingfor Mrs Dieu Bich (taken on May 8th 2008)
To be honest, this is the first time in my life I’ve seen such an example of Assiduous Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting. Many others have made vow to do this but because of adversity or sickness, they stopped. Only Mrs Dieu Bich has been persistently doing it and been determined to do it until the end of her life. She is 91 now (2009) but her appearance is great. She is fit. She can walk with deliberate steps and speak clearly. She’s got a good memory. All thanks to her assiduous Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting.
Her favourite work is to make rosaries to give to Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanters. She also advised people to practice Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting and contributed to the reprinting of PureLand books so more people know about this school of practice. She and her son Huynh Phuoc Bang (Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dien disciple by Dharma name) were two of the 23 founding members for Quan Am Temple in Montreal, Canada (Venerable Truong Phuoc being the Abott)
Mrs Dieu Bich has a firm and deep belief in Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting, that is to be reborn into the PureLand. This is the first condition of this method. She said: “Belief, Practice and Vow Making is the three key factors that should be enhanced by the PureLand practitioners. We must develop our beliefs in the Buddhas’ teachings, the law of cause and effect and the existence of the UltimateBlissLand established by Amitabha Buddha. And then keep practicing Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting until the mind is unmoved by anything else. And we have to make vows to be reborn into such PureLand”. She added that without a firm belief, she would not be dedicated to this method until now. She asked that starters should read Pure Land Great Letters (translated by Senior Venerable Hanh Tru); Ten key factors for Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting (translated by Senior Venerable Thien Tam) and PureLandSchool by Senior Venerable Tri Thu. These three valuable books will help them to have a strong belief in this method of practice before starting Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting.
The author and Mrs Dieu Bich (taken on May 7th 2008)
Mrs Dieu Bich has made the offering of 200 Canadian dollars to buy rosaries to give to Buddhists at our Quang Duc Monastery in Australia to advise them to do Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting. Hope that Buddhists at Quang Duc Monastery and any other Dharma fellows, upon reading this story of a good example for Amitabha Buddha’s Name Chanting, will practice assiduously so they can have peaceful and happy lives and be reborn into the Pure Land, as expressed from the bottom of the heart of Monk Linh Nhu who was ordained at the age of 70 and has being practicing Pure Land School:
From the bottom of my heart
Chanting Amitbha Buddha
On the Jewel pond Lotus throne
Being an incoming home
To the dust and the earth sand
Leaving behind such remains
On the eternally tranquil Land
Returning to the original man. (translated by Tam Tinh)
Một lòng niệm Phật Di Đà Đài sen ao báu là nhà tương lai Huyễn thân trả lại trần ai Cõi thường tìm lại hình hài năm xưa.
Homage to Amitabha Written at PhapBaoTemple during the yearly retreat, 2009 Thich Nguyen Tang (Vietnamese version)
As a child, my mother Enid often said to me, “There is no such thing as a silly question,” and then would add, “unless.” This latter word was left hanging, and I eventually realised that it was up to me to learn the depth of its meaning.
At the same time that Enid was planting seeds for reflection, my first spiritual teacher, Ven. Lama Senge Tashi, encouraged me to cultivate more skilful thoughts, speech and actions. Sometimes I would try to verbally assert “I” or “Me,” and Lama would respond with, “Who is speaking?” or “Who is asking?”
During the Covid-19 pandemic a dharma sister passed from this life. Her name was Robyn. Although she did not call herself a Buddhist, nevertheless, Robyn had a special connection with the deity Medicine Buddha.
Over the six years that I worked with her, in my role as a hospital chaplain, Robyn frequently asked me to chant the mantra of Medicine Buddha and guide her through the visualisation. During her many stays in hospital, this particular practice brought comfort to her while she was experiencing chronic pain, anxiety and fear of the unknown. The medications she took would sometimes cloud her memory, so I would guide her through the details of the visualisation and begin chanting:
Once, as I was about to hold a summer Dharma class on a beach, as the first students began to arrive for the session I picked up two rocks and carefully placed them, one on top of the other, on to a much larger rock base. Observing what I had just done, three students approached: a young married couple and their five year old son.
True Seeing (Ven. Shih Jingang) One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing.
‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’
‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’
‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’
But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day,
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.”
These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them?
A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death.
At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Today I sit alone in a house. The government of the country in which I live has requested that I stay here in isolation for the health and safety of the community both here and abroad. Countless others are doing the same thing, except that some call it a forced lock down, or an obstacle to their free movement. I see this as an opportunity to practice.
The Buddha taught that the suffering connected with birth, sickness, old age and death is a fact of life for sentient beings in Samsara. But so is the possibility of transcendence from Samsaric suffering.
So, for a practitioner, the question is not just “Why?” but also “How?” Why do I/we suffer and, how do I/we overcome suffering? The answer to the former is found in intuitively recognizing (the 3 Poisons): harmful habits of attachment, anger and ignorance; and the answer to the latter lies in resolving to study and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (the antidote) and, fully realizing Buddhahood for the benefit of a
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action.
I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.