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)
Huyen Quang was 77 years old when he received from the Venerable Phap Loa the mission of directing the Thien sect (Dhyana, Zen) of Truc Lam, thus assuming the title of Third Patriarch. In view of this age and his love for solitude, one could imagine how reluctant he was when he accepted such a charge. Huyen Quang was eager to return to nature as shown in his following poems.
Quynh Lam pagoda was a Buddhist center of primordial importance during the Golden Age of Vietnamese Buddhism under the royal dynasties of the Ly (1010-1225) and the Tran (1225-1400). The study of its development will help us to better understand not only the nature of Vietnamese Buddhism but also the phenomenon of acculturation ...
All many years long, we have travelled the whole states of the USA and provinces of Canada, from west to east, from north to south; we have already visited hundreds of Vietnamese Buddhist temples including big, medium and small ones; with monks or with nuns and even with Buddhist-layman or laywoman; also including temples belonging to Northern Buddhism, Southern Buddhism and Mendicancy sect…
Despite in the USA, in Washington D.C or in a remote village in Minnesota, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Louisiana (USA) or in provinces Ontario, Québec or Vancouver city (Canada)…Vietnamese Buddhist Temple is easily recognized from a distance.
In the long way history of Buddhism, an ancient and profound religion which has been constantly developing and modernising, Buddhist architecture has been changing increasingly both in form and content. From small buts for some monks in early times, they have gradually become large monasteries or Pagodas for a community of monks, together with dome-shaped or multi-faceted stupas enshrining holy Buddhist relics, subordinate structures, stele houses, statues, religious decorations and musical instruments….Today, one can see in a typical pagoda a harmonious and original combination of various characteristic of Buddhist architecture.
Huyen Quang was 77 years old when he received from the Venerable Phap Loa the mission of directing the Thien sect (Dhyana, Zen) of Truc Lam, thus assuming the title of Third Patriarch. In view of this age and his love for solitude, one could imagine how reluctant he was when he accepted such a charge. Huyen Quang was eager to return to nature as shown in his following poems
In the early 80s, I had the occasion of reading the French version of Zen doctrine by the Japanese professor D.T. Suzuki, a book lent to me by writer Nguyen Huu Dang. A volume of that work, "Satori" catches my attention. I have consulted many French and Vietnamese dictionaries in my possession and acquired a clear enough explanation of that key-word of Buddhism.
This article is a comment and not a critique of the "Vietnam Buddhism" website. It will point out some inaccurate information in the context in hope to share with the authors some accurate facts to clarify the ill-information related to the history of Buddhism in Vietnam that contained in that web.
Nguyện đem công đức này, trang nghiêm Phật Tịnh Độ, trên đền bốn ơn nặng, dưới cứu khổ ba đường, nếu có người thấy nghe, đều phát lòng Bồ Đề, hết một báo thân này, sinh qua cõi Cực Lạc.
May the Merit and virtue,accrued from this work, adorn the Buddhas pureland, Repay the four great kindnesses above, andrelieve the suffering of those on the three paths below, may those who see or hear of these efforts generates Bodhi Mind, spend their lives devoted to the Buddha Dharma, the Land of Ultimate Bliss.