One cannot speak of true advantages. It is just as someone will know the warmth or coolness of a glass of water only after drinking from it.
Despite the hot weather, people have not been put off and have rushed here to attend the session, undaunted by the long journey and arduous climb. Ultimately, what advantages does this have? One cannot speak of true advantages. Just as someone will know the warmth or coolness of a glass of water only after drinking from it, true-hearted people will naturally understand the wonder in this.
How can one obtain the advantages? There's no way aside from what I just said-you must recite the Bodhisattva's name with a true heart. A true heart is just a concentrated mind. It is said, "When one is concentrated, it is efficacious. When one is scattered, there is nothing." If you can be single-minded, you will obtain a spontaneous response in the Way. The power of the response in the Way is inconceivable. However, you must apply the effort yourself; no one can do it for you, and even less can you attain it by chance.
Consider the example of "talking about food and counting others' wealth." If someone talks about how nutritious the food is, but doesn't eat it, then even if it really is nutritious, how can the person get the nutrition? It is said:
All day long you count the money of others,
But you don't own half a cent yourself.
If you don't cultivate the Dharma,
You make the same mistake.
It is also the same when we recite the Bodhisattva's name. If we just know and talk about the merit and virtue of reciting the Bodhisattva's name, it doesn't count. We have to truly recite until we are single-minded and unconfused, and even further, until the sounds of the water and wind in our ears are just the recitation of the Bodhisattva's vast name. It is said,
Sentient creatures and insentient things,
All proclaim the wonderful Dharmaof the Mahayana.
If you have not reached that level of being single-minded and unconfused, then everything will be jumbled together. When the wind blows, you just hear a whooshing sound; when the water flows, you just hear the roaring sound. You cannot perceive the wonder in it. So we should honestly recite and not let any idle thoughts mingle in our recitation. Only then can we derive the benefits of the Dharma.
This time when we hold the session, we should pay attention to the rules for the session. As it is said, without a compass and a ruler, you can't draw circles and squares. The traditional rule of this temple is to avoid causing a disturbance, so that you won't hinder others from cultivating.
During these seven days, we will also recite the Great Compassion Mantra. The merit and virtue of the Great Compassion Mantra is inconceivable. Without considerable good roots, it's not easy to even hear the three words "Great Compassion Mantra." Now everyone can not only hear the name, but also uphold and recite it. That proves that you all have tremendous good roots, which you planted when there were Buddhas in the world. Since you have such great good roots, you should not casually let this life go to waste.
I remember that when the temple held the first sessions, eight or nine out of ten laypeople didn't know how to recite the Great Compassion Mantra. And now, eight or more out of ten laypeople can recite it. That shows the progress made by the laity. Now I'll tell a story which proves the merit and virtue of the Great Compassion Mantra.
In Manchuria, there was once a wealthy man who owned a great deal of land. One autumn, he accompanied four or five large cargo trucks carrying full loads of sorghum to be sold in the city. Since the city was over a hundred and fifty li from the village, he started out at a little past one o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately, he ran into some bandits on the road. Seeing them up ahead, the rich man started reciting the Great Compassion Mantra. Strangely enough, the gang of bandits were just like blind men and didn't notice his trucks at all. Thus, they passed safely through the difficulty. That's one of the efficacious responses of the Great Compassion Mantra that I have personally heard about.
In the Great Compassion Mind Dharani Sutra, it says, "Those who recite the Great Compassion Mantra can dispel all disasters. They will not be burned by fire or drowned by water." So I urge the laypeople who can already recite it to do so at least three times a day. Those who cannot recite it should learn quickly. The merit and virtue of the Great Compassion Mantra can not only make thieves and robbers go away, it can also dispel the myriad illnesses, and resolve all demonic troubles. So we should sincerely recite it.
On this starting day of the session, there is a very optimistic spirit in the Dharma Assembly, and everyone is taking it very seriously. I hope everyone will make a determined effort, and strive to be ever more vigorous.