Extracted from 'The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra with commentaries of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua' page 58 & 63
Then Ananda said, “We have always lived with you, Buddha, but when you enter Nirvana, where are we going to live?”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “When I go to Nirvana, all Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas should dwell in the Four Applications of Mindfulness: Mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, thoughts, and dharmas.
1) Contemplate the body as impure. If you know that the body is impure, you won’t love it, and without love there will be no attachment. Being without attachment is freedom. So first of all,regard the body as impure.
2) Contemplate feelings as suffering. Feelings are all a kind of suffering, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, for pleasant feelings are the cause of unpleasant feelings.
3) Contemplate thought as impermanent. Thoughts shift and flow and are not permanent.
4) Contemplate dharmas as devoid of self.”
The Four Applications Of Mindfulness
1) Contemplation of the body as impure. Everyone sees his body as extremely precious. Because you think it is real, you are selfish and profit-seeking. Without a body, there would be no selfishness.
We think our bodies are real and actual. Being selfish, we create offenses and commit evil deeds. We cannot let go of the affairs of the world and calculate on behalf of our bodies all day long, looking for good food, beautiful clothes, and a nice place to live— a little happiness for the body. On the day we die, we are still unclear. “My body is dying,” we moan. “How can it do this to me?” At that time we know that our bodies are unreal, but it’s too late, too late for our regrets.
Ultimately, is the body real? Stupid people think so, but wise people see it merely as a combination of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. It is not ultimate.
“Then,” you ask, “what is ultimate?”
Our own self-nature is
bright and all-illumining;
Our own-self-nature is
perfect and unimpeded.
It is nowhere and nowhere is it not;
to the end of empty space,
it exhausts the Dharma Realm.
Our bodies are temporary dwellings where our self-nature comes to live for a time. But the person dwelling in the hotel is not the hotel, and in the same way, his body is not him. The traveler who thinks that he is the hotel is mistaken. If you know that the body is just like a hotel, you should seek that which dwells within it, for once you have found it, you will recognize your true self.
From the time of birth, the body is impure—a combination of its father’s semen and its mother’s blood. The child grows up with greed, hate, stupidity, pride, and doubt. He commits offenses, creating the karma of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants and drugs. Offense-karma is created because of the body. But is the body such a precious thing after all? No.
A precious jewel is pure and undefiled, without stain or the slightest trace of filth. Our bodies, on the other hand, have nine apertures which constantly secrete impure substances: tears from the eyes, wax from the ears, mucus from the nose…
There are religions whose members eat mucus. They say that they are “smelting the cinnabar.” They also eat tears and ear wax thinking that these filthy substances are precious jewels. Isn’t that pitiful?
Two ears, two eyes, and two nostrils make six holes. The mouth is full of phlegm and saliva. That’s seven holes. Add the anus and urinary tract and you have nine. Would you call this pure? Everyone knows that excrement and urine are unclean and, if you don’t believe it, just try seasoning some fine food with a tiny pinch of excrement. No one will eat it. People will want to vomit instead because it is unclean. Would you call this body, dribbling filth from nine holes, a jewel? If it’s a jewel, why do such vile things flow from it?
If you don’t bathe for a week, you itch and squirm and a thick crust forms on your body. Where did it come from? Soon you stink with an odor even a dog finds repulsive. What is the advantage of having a body? Contemplate the body as impure. If you see how filthy it is, do you still love it? Are you still attached? What’s the use of loving such a dirty thing?
“Then can I stab myself? Can I kill myself?” you ask.
No. That’s not necessary. You must borrow this false body and use it to cultivate the Truth. The self-nature dwells within the body. You entered the body of five skandhas and the yin and yang merged in a combination of purity and filth which is your body. If you cultivate, you can go up, and attain purity. If you do not cultivate you will go down, create offense karma, unite with the filth, and turn into a ghost.
Go up. Become a Buddha. Whether or not you cultivate is up to you, however. Nobody can force you to cultivate.
The Venerable Ananda thought that because he was the Buddha’s cousin, he didn’t need to cultivate. He thought that the Buddha would just give him samadhi. But the Buddha couldn’t do that, and so it was not until after the Buddha’s Nirvana, when Ananda was about to edit the Sutras, that he finally certified to the fourth Stage of Arhatship and realized that he could not neglect cultivation.
Be mindful that the body is impure, don’t be so fond of it, and don’t take it as a treasure.
You say, “I can’t stand criticism. I can’t stand it.”
Who are you?
“If they hit me, I can’t bear it. It hurts!”
Really? If you put your attachments down and see through them, there is neither pain nor not pain. Who is in pain? What, exactly, hurts? If someone hits you, pretend that you bumped into a wall. If someone scolds you, pretend that they are singing a song or speaking Japanese. How can they scold you if you don’t understand them?
“Are they speaking Spanish or Portugese? French? German? I’ve never studied languages so I don’t understand…” They can scold you, but it’s nothing. In general, once you see through, break, and put down the attachment to your body, you win your independence.
Contemplate your body as impure. Don’t regard it with so much importance. It’s not important.
Contemplate feelings, thoughts, and dharmas as impure also.
2) Contemplate feelings as suffering. Feelings may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral; from the point of view of the three sufferings, unpleasant feelings are the suffering within suffering, pleasant feelings are caught up in the suffering of decay, and neutral feelings are the suffering of process. Wake up! Everything you enjoy is a form of suffering. If you know that pleasure is suffering, you will not be attached to it. I often say:
Enduring suffering puts an end to suffering;
Enjoying blessings destroys blessings.
If you endure your suffering, it will pass. If you enjoy your blessings, they, too, will pass. Contemplate feelings as suffering.
The body, thought, and dharmas are also suffering. Although there are Four Applications of Mindfulness, you can divide them up; each of the four characteristic qualities, impurity, suffering, impermanence, and the absence of self, can be applied to the body, to feelings, to thoughts, and to dharmas, making sixteen applications in all.
3) Contemplate thoughts as impermanent. The Vajra Sutra says, “Past thought cannot be obtained, present thought cannot be obtained, and future thought cannot be obtained.” All your thoughts are unobtainable. They flow without stopping and so they are impermanent. The body, feelings and dharmas are also impermanent.
4) Contemplate dharmas as without self. Basically, since there are no dharmas, from whence cometh the self? The self is a combination of four elements and the five skandhas—a creation of form dharmas. Outside of the four elements and the five skandhas there is no self. So contemplate dharmas as being without a self.
The Four Applications of Mindfulness are very wonderful. If you investigate them thoroughly, understand and dwell on them, you will be unattached and will attain true freedom. If you’re attached, you can’t be free. Why? Because you’re attached! So dwell in the Four Applications of Mindfulness. Dwell and yet do not dwell.
~End of Post~
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“Sariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who are about to make the vow, ‘I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country,’ these people, whether born in the past, now being born, or to be born in the future, all will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all good men and good women, if they are among those who have faith, should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that country.’”
~ Amitabha Sutra
When I obtain the Buddhahood, any being of the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters whose body if be touched by the rays of my splendour should not make his body and mind gentle and peaceful, in such a state that he is far more sublime than the gods and men, then may I not attain the enlightenment.
~ Amitabha Buddha's Thirty-Third Vow