People who have participated the Dharma assemblies at the City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas in the last two years may have seen the impressive flower arrangements
in the Buddha hall.
Upasika Liu Zhungsui is in charge of arranging the flowers offered
to the Buddhas. She is a flower-arrangement teacher from Taiwan.
I first saw her arranging flowers in the City three years ago. At
that time, she paid close attention to the position, angle and proportion
of the flowers and leaves, and her arrangements had a feminine style.
In the last two years, Upasika Zhungsui has seemed to pick the flowers
at random and arrange them as her heart dictates. She no longer stresses
the traditional style, and there is a streak of natural vitality
in her arrangements. Close friends tease her, saying that her arrangements
seem to embody the principles of the Dharma Flower Sutra, Shurangama
Sutra and Earth Store Sutra: no wonder they are so impressive. Through
vigorous studying at the City, she has thoroughly memorized those
three sutras. Moreover, she has comprehended the essentials of memorizing
She always says that memorizing sutras is the best Dharma door for
her to cultivate, because she cannot have the tiniest bit of discursive
thinking, if she does, then she cannot memorize anything. In two
months, she has thoroughly memorized the whole Dharma Flower Sutra,
over 60,000 characters. She memorizes an average of more than 1,000
characters a day. With a smile, she says she becomes so engrossed
in her work that she’s reluctant to even go to the restroom.
Every night, she recites the sutra text she has memorized during
the day to a fellow cultivator. She has found that if she recites
to someone who is vigorously cultivating, she can recite fluently
and clearly; in front of those who are busy and scattered, she cannot
recite as smoothly. Isn’t this is a mysterious response?
She also memorized the Vajra Sutra, but at that time she didn’t
know the “character contemplation” method of memorizing
sutras, so she tended to forget what she had memorized. In January
of this year, during an evening lecture, Upasika Zhungsui introduced
this method of memorizing sutras to the City’s assembly. It
is summarized below for the reader’s benefit:
How to Memorize Sutras:
1. Start with a short sutra.
2. Recite the text until you become familiar with it, marking any words which
are confusing or unclear.
3. Refer to the explanatory texts or tapes in order to clarify he meaning.
4. Set the order of memorization based on your familiarity with and the length
of each chapter, proceeding from easy to hard. It is inadvisable to skip chapters
if they are related in meaning.
5. Use the “character contemplation” method for better and longer
6. Set up a daily memorization schedule.
7. To enhance memory and avoid mistakes, regularly recite in front of others.
8. Correct any mistakes, and review regularly.
“Character contemplation” means contemplating the form
of the character; from characters, proceed to contemplate sentences,
then paragraphs, pages, chapters, and finally, the whole sutra. Contemplate
the characters being lined up one by one in your mind, just as if
you were laying out a page of text. Close your eyes in order to avoid
becoming scattered or lax. Concentrate attentively in order to contemplate
the whole character clearly.
Note: Be mindful in thought after thought and do not overlook even
simple characters. In general, the simpler the character, the easier
it is to forget and get wrong. Therefore, you should contemplate
character by character.
Since she has memorized so many sutras, fellow cultivators always
praise and admire her, saying, “You must have memorized them
in your past lives. We can’t memorize now because we didn’t
do so in past lives.” Upasika Zhungsui thinks many people simply
lack self-confidence, so they think they cannot memorize. She earnestly
says, “Anything we do in Buddhism is accomplished by the Buddhas’ and
Bodhisattvas’ vows. If we think in this way, then we won’t
become arrogant or lack confidence.”
Upaiska Zhungsui has another little secret for memorizing sutras.
She requests water for anointing the crown everyday. In front of
the image of Earth Store Bodhisattva in her room, she follows the
instructions in the Earth Store Sutra: “They should place a
bowl of pure water before the Bodhisattva for one day and one night.
Then, placing their palms together, let them state their request
and drink the water while facing south. As the water is about to
enter their mouths they should be particularly sincere and earnest.
After drinking it they should abstain from the five pungent plants,
wine, meat, sexual activity, false speech, and all killing and harming.”
As long as we hold the precepts and cultivate sincerely,
by the aid of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ vows,
we can certainly all memorize sutras.