Do One Thing Well

Lately I’ve been reading a Chinese-Buddhist book called Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land which contains letters from a famous Chinese Buddhist monk named Yin-Guang (印光, 1861-1940). Yin-Guang helped revive and reform Chinese Buddhism at the time, especially Pure Land (浄土) Buddhism. So far this has been one of the best books I’ve read in years. Thanks to “A.S.” For donating the book years ago.1 😉

Anyhow, in letter three, Yin-Guang quotes from a famous Chinese Buddhist master named Shan-Dao (善導, 613-681) or Zendō in Japanese.2 Yin Guang quotes the following:

If you wish to study “meaning” [understand the Dharma] you should study all the dharmas, from the mundane level to the level of the Buddhas. However, if you want to engage in “practice,” you choose a method compatible with the Truth as well as your own capacities and level and then concentrate on it earnestly. Only then can you reap benefits swiftly. Otherwise, even if you spend many eons, you will not be able to escape Birth and Death.

–Translation by Venerable Thich Thien Tam

The point of all this is that the best approach in Buddhism is to broadly study the Dharma (仏法, the Buddha’s teachings); don’t limit yourself to certain teachings. But also pick a single practice you can keep up for years. This could be meditation, reciting the Buddha’s name (念仏/念佛), reciting the name of the Lotus Sutra as in Nichiren Buddhism (南無妙法蓮華経), or reciting a mantra (真言), etc. Everyone’s situation is different so the Buddhist practice may be different. What’s important is sustaining it.

It’s like boiling water: you should try to apply constant heat, or constant enough, to make the water boil. If you move the pot to another burner, you have to start over again.

1 Sorry it took me so long to read it. My backlog is extensive. :-p

2 Shan-Dao greatly influenced Chinese Buddhism and also
Japanese Buddhism among other places.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “Do One Thing Well”

  1. Love this! I study the Dharma broadly, but being a lone American learning the Dharma on my own and finding resources through the local Jodo Shinshu Temple, I have felt that I might be somehow not doing enough to learn more… This is nice clarification and encouragement that my practice is right where is should be for ME. Thank you.


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