Pure Land and Zen Methods
To Wu Kuang-i, Layman Nien-tz’u of Nan-ch’eng
There are many ways to enter the Path, but for directness and simplicity, none matches reciting the buddha-name.
The method of buddha-remembrance through reciting the buddha-name brings salvation to those of the most excellent capacities, and reaches down to the most stupid and dull. In sum, it is the Path that reaches from high to low. Do not be shaken or confused by vulgar views [that Pure Land is only for those of lesser abilities].
Since ancient times, the venerable adepts [of the Zen school] have taught people to contemplate meditation topics [koans], to arouse the feeling of doubt, and thus proceed to great awakening. Some contemplate the word “No.” Some contemplate “The myriad things return to one: what does the one return to?” The meditation topics are quite diverse, and there are quite enough of them.
Now I will try to compare [Zen and Pure Land methods].
Take for example [the koan] “The myriad things return to one: what does the one return to?” This is very similar to [the koan] “Who is the one reciting the buddha-name?” If you can break through at this “Who?” then you will not have to ask anyone else what the one returns to: you will spontaneously comprehend.
This was precisely what the ancients meant when they said that those who recite the buddha-name and wish to study Zen should not concentrate on any other meditation topic but this.
Recite the buddha-name several times, turn the light around and observe yourself: who is the one reciting the buddha-name? If you employ your mind like this, without forgetting, without any other help, after a long time you are sure to have insight.
If you cannot do this, it is also alright simply to recite the buddha-name. Keep your mindfulness from leaving buddha, and buddha from leaving your mindfulness. When your mindfulness [of buddha] peaks, your mind empties: you will get a response and link up with the Path, and buddha will appear before you. According to the inner pattern, it must be so.