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THE ESSENTIALS OF MORNING AND EVENING RECITATION
CTTB DAILY RECITATION HANDBOOK (PDF 10.8 Mb)
From limitless time until now, we have carried with us the seeds of karma. Karma brings its corresponding retribution. In the Earth Store Sutra the Buddha explains, "I see that every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of living beings of Jambudvipa is an offense." From such seeds, more seeds are produced, and from karma more karma is accumulated. If we don’t rely on meditation and recitation ceremonies, how can we hope to eradicate such offenses? This is especially true for those who have set forth from the home-life and entered the Way, who neither serve the government nor assume other livelihoods, but who solely rely on the offerings of donors. If those people do not apply effort in cultivating the Way, then it will be difficult for them to digest the offerings made by faithful donors. The Great Dhyana Master Jan Jou said, "If one doesn’t accomplish the Way in this very life, then one will have to repay the debts accrued by wearing horns and fur in the future."
Moreover, Morning Recitation and Evening Recitation are performed not only for the sake of benefiting oneself, but also for the sake of enabling living beings throughout the Dharma Realm to attain Anuttarasamyaksambodhi (Unsurpassed, Proper, Equal, and Right Enlightenment). How can we overlook such an important matter?
As participants in recitation ceremonies, we should carry our bodies erect and never be casual. We should sound each syllable of every recitation passage, our minds concentrated and unmoving, from the beginning to the end of the entire recitation. Then the Three Karmas (of body, speech, and mind) and the Three Stoppings (the stopping that leads to the meshing with True Substance; the stopping of expedients according with conditions; and the stopping of the two extremes) will be in harmony. If we can maintain an attitude of respect in our physical demeanors, if we recite with clear and crisp voices, and if we formulate in our minds the contemplations in keeping with the passages as we recite them, then the Three Karmas will mesh with the Three Contemplations (of emptiness, falseness, and the Middle). The Three Stoppings and Three Contemplations will then become like a mirror reflecting the myriad images, and our minds and the Sages’ mind can come together in an intertwining response, just as when water is poured into water, and empty space unites with empty space, so that our merit fills the Dharma Realm, and our measures become equal to the void.
Cultivators should first study the recitation ceremonies to comprehend their deeper intent. That facilitates our contemplating while reciting and upholding. We should familiarize ourselves with the liturgy. Otherwise, in the face of the various states that could arise during recitation, our minds would become scattered and we would not succeed in reaching a proper state of contemplation.
In the early morning, when the myriad states have not arisen, when our minds are quiet and tranquil, we should awaken and get dressed and immediately commence the recitation of the Shurangama Mantra of the Buddha’s Summit. This mantra serves to regulate the five desires before they have had time to arise so that our minds quickly penetrate and directly reveal the wonderful nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One as it truly is. As it is said, “Still and unmoving, there is a response and a spontaneous penetration."
Next we go on to recite the Great Compassion Mantra, which has the ability to cleanse the mind of filth. After enlightening to the compassion of mutual identity with all things, we recite the Ten Small Mantras: we turn the Dharma Wheel with the As-You-Will Wheel King Dharani. The Disaster-Eradicating Auspicious Spirit Mantra prevents calamities and brings good fortune. That is followed with the Meritorious Virtue Jeweled Mountain Mantra. Auspiciousness in our minds, we dwell on the Mountain of the Dharma-nature and obtain the jewel of meritorious virtue. The Jwun Ti Spirit Mantra completely dispels the obstructions regarding phenomena, so that the Dharma-nature can be revealed in its fullness. Next, we intone the Sagely Resolute Light King Dharani of Limitless Life Mantra, to entreat the Thus Come One Light King to bestow wisdom-life upon us. Our wisdom-lives having come forth, we go on to intone the Medicine Master True Words for Anointing the Crown of the Head, which further enhances our wisdom so that it becomes like crystal encompassing a jeweled moon within. At this point, light pours forth, anointing the crowns of our heads. With the recitation of the Gwan Yin Efficacious Response True Words, we mesh with Gwan Yin’s efficacious ear-organ and the entire Dharma Realm, and the magical responses are boundless. The True Words of Seven Buddhas for Eradicating Offenses roots out at their very source the beginningless karma that impedes the brilliant light of our wisdom and that prevents it from shining forth. The Mantra for Rebirth in the Pure Land affects our karma, which is originally pure, as we request Anita Buddha to anoint our heads as certification that we will be reborn in the Pure Land. The last of the Ten Small Mantras, the Good Goddess Mantra culminates the sublime contemplations described above.
Together those mantras serve to quicken the wonderful functioning of the Dharma-nature and the fulfillment of our wishes. However, we should know that although we may enter a wonderful state of contemplation by reciting those mantras, they must be recited with a single-minded concentration in order for the contemplations to be actualized.
Further, to prevent us from becoming attached to those states of contemplation, the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra is recited. That Sutra points directly to the mind’s substance in its fundamental emptiness, by proclaiming that ultimately there is no wisdom that can be obtained; even the mark of emptiness itself is empty. Thus, the state of wisdom is revealed in its entirety - not one; not many. The two extremes are eliminated and the Three Contemplations are perfectly fused.
Those twelve mantras of the Secret School and one Sutra of the Apparent Teaching share a mutual identity and are mutually encompassing.
As a means to attain actual certification, we next recite the Buddha’s name. In the recitation of one Buddha’s name, the names of all Buddhas are implied, because of the mutual inclusion of the one with the many and the perfect fusion between self and others.
Next the Ten Great Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva are recited. As we recite, we should contemplate that these great vows are our own vows, and that they must direct our every thought, word, and deed throughout all time. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s explanation of the Ten Great Vows in Chapter 40 of the FLOWER ADORNMENT SUTRA should be studied so that we may become familiar with the vows’ meaning and scope.
Morning Recitation is concluded with the Three Refuges, as we return the merit generated from reciting the mantras and Sutra of the Secret and Apparent Teachings to the Triple Jewel of our own natures. We don’t seek refuge by relying on anything external to our own natures. The great, all-encompassing Dharma-door of the One Mind is completely manifested. In this way, everything that we encounter belongs to the Treasury of the Thus Come One.
When evening comes, we should gather in the myriad virtues and dedicate them to the Pure Land. This is known as "creating merit at the beginning and returning the virtue at the end." And so one begins the recitation with the Amitabha Sutra. This Sutra causes us to awaken to the sublime primary and dependent rewards of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. We are exhorted to practice the Dharma of reciting the Buddha’s name, as it is the proper cause for living beings to beget loathing for the extreme filth of the Saha world and aspire toward the utter purity of the Pure Land. With the Rebirth Mantra we beseech Amita Buddha to anoint the crowns of our heads, to pull out the fundamental cause of our karmic obstacles, and to guarantee that we will certainly be reborn in his land.
If the practitioner’s mind is admixed with defilement, his obstacles are not easily eradicated, and so we rely on the Eighty-eight Buddhas Repentance Ceremony, with its verses of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, to expand upon the Ten Kings of Vows recited earlier in the day. With those recitations, both relative truths and Absolute Truth are perfectly fused and the Sea-seal Samadhi is realized.
Both the Amitabha Sutra and the Eighty-eight Buddhas Repentance Ceremony are followed with the Meng Mountain Offering, bringing vast benefit to beings of the lower realms, and the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra is recited to affect their understanding that both offenses and blessings have no host and that people and dharmas are empty, so that they may come to realize the True Reality of all dharmas. Once again, the Rebirth Mantra is recited, as we rely upon Amita Buddha to release light to anoint the crowns of our heads and protect us. We pray that the six paths transform into the Pure Land, and that all sentient creatures immediately be certified to the Ten Grounds.
Next, we recite the Buddha’s name as we transfer merit and seek actual certification. we conclude with the Three Refuges. All goodness gained throughout the day, from beginning to end, is returned to the Triple Jewel of our own natures, and we vow that the living beings throughout the Dharma Realm will all bring forth the unsurpassed resolve and together perfect the Wisdom of all Modes.
by National Master Yu Lin (died 1676) of the Ching Dynasty
Preface of CTTB DAILY RECITATION HANDBOOK (PDF 10.8 Mb)