Excerpts 51 - 60
Rectify your mind. Rectify your behavior. Rectify your ears, eyes, mouth, and nose. Behavior and mind should be pure and clean,
and accord with virtuousness. Do not let your leisure pursuits or desires take control. Do not commit any evil deed. Speech and facial expressions should be gentle. Cultivation should be focused. Body and eye movements should be calm and composed. Doing things in haste will result in failure and regret.
This excerpt teaches us how to correct our wrong actions in daily life. There are many kinds of actions. Generally, they are grouped into three categories: physical, verbal, and mental. This passage teaches us that through body, speech, and mind, we correct our thoughts and behaviors.
"Rectify your mind." "Your" shows that in the matter of cultivation, no one can do it for us--we need to make the effort to restrain ourselves in order to have any result.
"Mind" refers to mental karma, thoughts, and thinking. They are the sources of all evils. The Buddha taught us to cultivate from the root. The root is the mind. "Rectify" means to correct. When the mind is not proper, we should immediately correct it--be honorable and open. This is how we begin learning Buddhism.
From the aspect of phenomena, a true Buddhist practitioner should have a mind of the utmost virtuousness. There is nothing that this person does in this lifetime which he or she cannot tell others. Sima Guang in ancient China is a very good example. He was honest from childhood. Throughout his life, he did not do anything that he could not tell others. This was because his mind was proper, honorable, and open. He had nothing to hide.
But "rectify your mind" that the Buddha teaches here refers to a higher level state of mind. It refers to a pure mind. Evil pollutes the mind, but so does good. Both evil and good pollute the mind. Therefore, the good karmas lead to rebirth in the Three Good Paths and the evil karmas lead to rebirth in the Three Evil Paths. In other words, one cannot transcend the Six Paths. Only with a pure mind will one be able to transcend the Three Realms [Desire Realm, Form Realm, Formless Realm. This also refers to the Six Paths.] With a pure mind in control, one's thoughts, words and deeds will all be pure. When the mind is proper, the six sense organs will naturally be proper.
"Rectify your behavior. Rectify your ears, eyes, mouth, and nose." This talks about bodily behavior, about someone's demeanor. The mind of a beginning practitioner is easily affected by the external environment. This is why the Buddha taught beginners to start with observing the precepts and etiquette, and to gradually nurture a pure, sincere mind. When the mind is truly pure, the ears, eyes, mouth, and tongue, and body will naturally be set right.
"Behavior and mind should be pure and clean, and accord with virtuousness." "Pure" describes the mind. "Clean" describes the body. The mind should be pure and the body should be clean. This is the key guiding principle. This sentence tells us the standard for cultivating one's moral character. It teaches us to constantly examine ourselves when a thought arises and to ensure that the body and mind are clean and pure.
What kind of mind is a pure mind? When a mind has no wandering thoughts, it is pure. The standard for cultivating one's moral character is purity, which means no filth or pollution.
"Virtuousness" here is not the good in good and bad. In the original nature, there is neither good nor bad. In a pure mind, there is also neither good nor bad. This is true virtuousness.
Confucianism says "Attain utmost virtuousness. Utmost virtuousness is the original nature. When the body and mind move away from relativity, one will attain great freedom--true purity and uprightness.
"Do not let your leisure pursuits or desires take control." If we cannot let go of our outside interests and greed, no matter how well we clean the body, we are not considered pure.
"Do not commit any evil deed." Simply put, evil deeds are the Ten Evil Karmas: the physical karmas of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; the verbal karmas of harsh speech, divisive speech, false speech, and enticing speech; and the mental karmas of greed, anger, and ignorance. Not committing evil deeds, cultivating the Ten Virtuous Karmas, and observing the Five Precepts--these accord with the Ten Virtuous Karmas.
"Speech and facial expressions should be gentle." When we interact with others, our facial expressions and words should have a sense of conviviality. Analects says: "In practicing etiquette, harmony is paramount." A Chinese proverb says, "When there is harmony in a family, all undertakings will be successful." When there is harmony in a family, the family will definitely prosper. When there is harmony in a cultivation center, the proper teachings will be in this world. When there is harmony between the government and populace of a nation, the country will prosper. When all the people in the world get along harmoniously, the world will be at peace, in Great Harmony. Harmony is very important! Where do we start? We start with ourselves. Our speech should be gentle, so should our facial expressions.
"Cultivation should be focused." This is particularly important. If we want to have any success, whether in worldly pursuits or in Buddhism, we should stay focused. When we learn many different things, our energy, strength, and time will be dispersed. This is why the six major guidelines of Bodhisattvas' practice tell us to be diligent [that is, making focused and diligent progress.] "Focused and diligent' means unadulterated. "Progress" means moving forward. Only when the learning is focused and unadulterated will we succeed.
"Body and eye movements should be calm and composed." This is talking about one's demeanor. "Calm" refers to one's mind; one's mind should be serene. "Composed" means steady. It also means being unhurried and not rash. We should learn this.
"Doing things in haste will result in failure and regret." People today are in a hurry and are impatient. In the past, one would feel regret when one did not succeed in one's studies, career or cultivation. People today do not have regrets. They think that they have no faults. With no faults, they naturally will have no regrets.
Extensively plant roots of virtue. Do not violate the precepts of the Way. Practice patience and diligence. Be compassionate and singled-minded.
"Extensively plant roots of virtue." "Plant" means to plant and nurture. As to "roots of virtue," for Mahayana Bodhisattvas, the basis of all virtues is the Six Paramitas. For Theravada practitioners, it is the Three Learnings of precepts, meditative concentration, and wisdom. For Pure Land practitioners, mindfully chanting the Buddha-name accords with Buddha -- one uses the Buddha-name to awaken oneself and to make one's mind, vows, understanding, and practice the same as those of Amitabha Buddha. The merit of the Buddha-name is completely revealed. It is the root of all virtues.
One can sincerely chant the Buddha-name even if one is not familiar with the teachings or the principles. Because one chants the Buddha-name, no wandering thoughts and attachments arise. One's mind is pure and clear. This also accords with the meaning of "roots of virtue."
Simply put, everything in this world and beyond is invariably about conditions. Conditions may be favorable or adverse. How do conditions come about? They are created by us, initiated by us. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas constantly teach us to have a good heart, say kind words, and do good deeds. This is planting and nurturing roots of virtue.
"Virtue" here refers to good fortune. One not only has to plant and nurture but do so extensively. When one broadens one's mind and practice, one's good fortune will be profound and great. Even in this corrupt and evil world, one will still be able to enjoy good fortune. Those who do not cultivate good fortune are the most miserable people in the world. They are pitiable! The truest, greatest, ultimate, and perfect good fortune is mindfully chanting the Buddha-name and seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land.
The world is filled with suffering. What people drink is suffering and what they eat is poison. There is no solace, nor does it end. Even if one gets all the wealth and prestige that one wants -- just like the effect of a cardiac stimulant being injected into a patient, a spark from a flint, or a flash of lightning -- they will soon be gone.
Besides, when people are enjoying their good fortune, committing transgressions is unavoidable. More often than not, the offenses they commit are more extensive than those committed by the poor.
Hence, people should know to cultivate good fortune.
"Do not violate the precepts of the Way." In a restricted sense, "precepts of the Way" refers to the precepts taught by the Buddha. We should be clear about what the Buddha taught us: what not to do, what not to say, and what thoughts not to have. In a broader sense, "precepts of the Way" encompasses laws, customs, and taboos. We should not violate any of these.
Also, for example, we should never go to other people's cultivation centers to post notices, hand out flyers, or get their followers to come to our cultivation center. These are all within the scope of "the precepts of the Way." In particular, we should not do these things at cultivation centers that give talks.
"Practice patience and diligence." We should be patient and diligent in everything. If there is no patience, there is no diligence. We should have endurance when facing natural disasters. We should be even more patient in human relationships.
When there is a group of people, there will be differences in views and thoughts on an issue. If every one of us has very stubborn attachments, conflict is inevitable. If we can each yield a little, the problem will be resolved. That is why it is said, "Under the heavens, there were originally no problems." Give in, even just a little, and there will be no problems. Therefore, we should be patient and diligent.
"Be compassionate and single-minded." "Compassion" means that we need to have great compassion towards beings and help those who are suffering by relieving their suffering and giving them happiness. What is the gravest suffering for people today? Being deluded and ignorant! If one is wrong about the truth of life and the universe in one's thoughts, views, speech, and deeds and yet still seeks to have good fortune, this is the gravest suffering!
"Repay the Four Kinds of Kindness above, and relieve the suffering of those in the Three Paths below." This is our obligation. This is what we should do. How do we repay kindness? How do we save those who are suffering in the Three Paths below? What ability do we have to relieve the suffering of those in the Three Paths below? We do not have this ability!
Relieving the suffering of those in the Three Paths below means that we should help people today who have created these karmic causes but have not yet fallen into the Three Evil Paths. We cannot do anything to help those who have fallen into the Three Evil Paths. Frankly, it is difficult to help those in the Three Evil Paths, even for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, let alone for us.
Who will undergo suffering in the Three Evil Paths? Those who are heavily afflicted with greed, anger, or ignorance. Ignorant people cannot tell right from wrong, and are confused about proper and improper, and good and bad. This is the karmic cause for the animal path.
In other words, when we see someone heavily afflicted with greed, anger, or ignorance, this is a person who will fall into the Three Evil Paths. We should do our best to help and remind this person, which will allow this person to awaken and reform on his own. This is great compassion.
"Single-minded" refers to ourselves. It means to be One Mind Undisturbed. One should not only have One Mind Undisturbed as the goal of one's daily routine practice, one's mind should also be undisturbed at all times, in all places, and whenever one is helping others. One's mind should still be undisturbed when one is applying great compassion, repaying kindness, and relieving suffering.
If one's mind is disturbed when helping others, one should stop helping and just chant the Buddha-name diligently and unquestioningly. One is not at fault in doing so.
The Surangama Sutra says: "If you can change the environment, then you are the same as the Thus Come One." If one is able to change the environment and be unaffected by it, then one has the ability to help others. If one does not have this ability, one should first cultivate oneself, seeking to achieve in cultivation, before helping others to change. This is very important!
Some Bodhisattvas generate the great mind of helping others before they achieve in their own cultivation. They can do so because their minds are focused and are not affected by the environment. They do not change according to the environment. Not achieving in their own cultivation means not attaining Buddhahood, but they are able to become Arhats or Bodhisattvas. If in helping others, we still fall into the Three Evil Paths, then this is wrong.
We should learn diligently and should not misunderstand the teachings in the sutras.
Only in this world are there little good and plenty of evil. What people drink is suffering and what they eat is poison. There is no peace or ending.
"This world" refers to the Saha world. An evil world of the Five Corruptions--this is what our present society is. In today's society, there is little good and a lot of evil. Everyone can see this.
"What people drink is suffering and what they eat is poison. There is no peace or ending." Food is essential to us ordinary beings in the Six Paths. But what are we consuming today? Suffering and poison.
Great Master Yinguang earnestly urged us to maintain a vegetarian diet. Why?
Generally when people are angry, their sweat is poisonous. Therefore anger and hatred are poisons. When anger or hatred arises, every part of the body is filled with poisonous liquid. In the past, there was a woman who breast-fed her baby when she was angry. The baby died after a few days, poisoned by the milk.
Let's look at animals. When an animal is being killed by a human, would it be very happy about it ? No. It is just that the animal is unable to resist! In addition, with extreme anger, how can it not become poisonous? Therefore, when one eats meat over a long period of time, poison will accumulate in one's body. When the poison takes effect, one will have strange diseases. As it is said, "Illness enters through the mouth." If we wish for good wealth and longevity, we should start to have a vegetarian diet. This is very important. Frankly, there are also toxins in vegetarian food: there are pesticides in vegetables. But a vegetarian diet is still better than a meat diet because it is less toxic.
To your elders and juniors, men and women, family members, and friends, you should impart my teachings. Discipline and reflect upon yourself. Be in harmony and conform with justice and truth. Be happy, compassionate, and filial. If your action is a transgression, feel remorse about the offense. Eradicate evil and cultivate virtue. When you learn about a fault of yours in the morning, correct it by evening.
"To your elders and juniors, men and women, family members, and friends, you should impart my teachings."
"Elders" refers to our parents or seniors. "Juniors" refers to our children, nephews and nieces, or anyone younger than ourselves. "Men and women, family members, and friends" refers to our relatives, from our family to the family clan, and then to distant relatives and friends.
When we follow the Buddha's teachings, practice accordingly, and receive the true, wondrous benefits of Buddhism, we should also do our best to introduce Buddhism to others and urge them to learn. When they benefit from the learning, they will also teach others. This way, we will truly repay the kindness of the Buddha. Urge and encourage others to learn this true teaching. Introduce and recommend it to a town, a city, a country, and even the world. Then society will be in harmony and the world will be at peace.
Great Master Yinguang once held a "Protecting the Country and Averting Disasters Dharma Ceremony" in Shanghai. He clearly explained how to protect the country and avert disasters -- mindfully chant the Buddha-name and maintain a vegetarian diet. When everyone maintains a vegetarian diet and mindfully chants the Buddha-name, disasters will naturally be averted and the country will naturally be protected. Therefore, we should spread this teaching to the whole world. This is truly repaying the Four Kinds of Kindness above, and relieving the suffering of those in the Three Paths below. This is protecting the world and eliminating disasters. There are many ways to spread the Buddha's teachings. For example, one could print the sutras and give them to others or circulate cassette tapes, video tapes, CDs, and video discs on Dharma lectures. One does one's best to help others. As for oneself, one should sincerely chant the Buddha-name and seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land. But one should not force others to have the same aspiration. One only needs to help others to (1) have a good heart, (2) say kind words, (3) do good deeds, and (4) have a happy family.
"Discipline and reflect upon yourself. Be in harmony and conform with justice and truth. Be happy, compassionate, and filial." These words are well said. They are not only for our cultivation. When introducing Buddhism to others, we should teach not only with words but also with exemplary behavior. If we teach only with words but cannot practice what we teach, others may not believe us or accept the teachings. We must truly practice the teachings so as to really help others build confidence.
"Discipline and reflect upon yourself." One's thoughts, spoken words, and behavior should accord with the teachings in the sutras. One should discipline oneself and reflect on one's behavior and thoughts.
"Be in harmony and conform with justice and truth." One should be amiable and get along harmoniously with others. "Harmony" refers to the Six Harmonies. "Conform" refers to being in accordance with all beings. Harmony and conformity should not be based on emotions but on justice and truth. There is a principle that one should follow when one accords with others: while according with others, one should inspire and change them. If one cannot help others awaken and reform, one should not indulge them.
"Be happy, compassionate, and filial." Children should be filial to their parents, and parents should love their children. The family will be happy. This is the foundation. Families make up a society. Societies make up a country. Countries make up the world. Therefore, we should know that the origin of happiness is family.
Happiness is also the most basic requirement in one's interacting with others and engaging in tasks. As the Mahayana sutras say: wherever Bodhisattvas go, they make all beings happy. The Bodhisattvas absolutely do not have any thought of, let alone commit any act of, harming others. This is why they are happy, and so is everyone else.
"Compassion" is impartial and pure. All of Buddha's teachings are developed from filial piety. In Buddhism, filial piety, since the past, has no beginning and into the future, has no end. It extends through time in the three time periods and through space in the ten directions. The entire universe is oneself. It is one entity.
"If your action is a transgression, feel remorse about the offense. Eradicate evil and cultivate virtue. When you learn about a fault in the morning, correct it by evening."
"As people are not sages, how can they be faultless? When a person becomes aware of a fault and corrects it, there is no virtue greater than this." [This Confucian quote tells us that] the greatest virtue is correcting faults, which is the teaching of the sages. If one is aware of one's faults, one is awakened. Cultivation is correcting one's faults, and correcting one's faults is cultivation. Being aware of one's faults is awakening, and correcting one's faults is true cultivation. When our thoughts, views, spoken words, and behavior are wrong, we should repent. Repentance is not about seeking the forgiveness of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Rather, sincerely admit one's wrongdoings, completely correct them, and never make the same mistakes again.
"Eradicate evil and cultivate virtue. When you learn about a fault of yours in the morning, correct it by evening." This describes truly regretting one's mistakes. One should awaken quickly and correct one's faults quickly. When one realizes a fault, one should correct it immediately.
Correct your past wrongs and cultivate good karma for your future. Cleanse your mind and change your behavior. You will naturally receive a response. Your wishes will be fulfilled.
This excerpt talks about the saying: "In Buddhism, every sincere request will receive a response."
"Correct your past wrongs and cultivate good karma for the future. Cleanse your mind and change your behavior." This teaches us how to seek. If we seek according to the truth and the teachings, our wish will be fulfilled. If our seeking is unreasonable and unlawful, our wish, as expected, will not come to fruition. How can we seek within the truth and the teachings? "Correct your past wrongs and cultivate good karma for the future" is to accord with the teachings. "Cleanse your mind and change your behavior" is to accord with the truth.
Correct bad habits to end all wrongdoings, and cultivate virtuous deeds -- this is to "cultivate good karma for the future." For the future, we should cultivate diligently. This is from the aspect of phenomena.
"Cleanse your mind and change your behavior." This is from the aspect of the truth. The mind contains afflictions, wandering thoughts, and attachments. These are defilements that need to be removed in order to restore a pure mind. "Behavior" refers to actions--the physical actions of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, and the verbal actions of false speech, divisive speech, and so on, and other bad behaviors.
When our mind, thoughts, and views are not pure, we use "Amituofo" -- the method of having belief, vow, and chanting the Buddha-name -- to cleanse our mind and change our behavior. When we use the method of ending wrongdoings and practicing virtuous conduct, it is correcting our past wrongs and cultivating good karma for the future.
"You will naturally receive a response. Your wishes will be fulfilled." If we practice in this way, we will naturally receive a response and our wish will be fulfilled.
Therefore, when we learn Buddhism, we must accord with the truth and the teachings, and not seek extraordinary powers or any response. As long as we cultivate the causes according to the teachings, we will reap what we sow--this principle is definite. A Chinese proverb says, "Just focus on farming. Do not ask what you will harvest."
Wherever the Buddha goes, whether to a country, a city, or a village, people will be moved and will benefit. All the lands will be enveloped in peace and harmony. The sun and moon will shine clear and bright. Wind and rain will come when needed. Disasters and epidemics will not occur. The country will flourish and the people will enjoy peace. There will be no need for soldiers or weapons. Virtue will be revered and benevolence will be promoted. People will practice courtesy and humility. There will be no thieves or robbers in the country. There will be neither injustice nor resentment. The strong will not dominate the weak. Everyone will naturally get their fair reward.
"Wherever the Buddha goes, whether to a country, a city, or a village, people will be moved and will benefit." "The Buddha" here refers to the Buddha's teachings. "Goes" refers to implementation. "Wherever the Buddha goes" refers to the places where the Buddha's teachings are implemented. From a place as large as a country to a place as small as a village, if the people there truly practice the Buddha's teachings, they will change for the better. Those who receive the Buddha's teachings will have a change in disposition, go from being evil to being virtuous, from being defiled to being pure, and from being improper to being proper. This is the achievement from implementing the Buddha's teachings.
"All the lands will be enveloped in peace and harmony." "Peace" means to acquiesce and not go against. Specifically, it means that people understand and accord with the teachings. When everyone abides by and follow the laws, society will naturally be harmonious.
"The sun and moon will shine clear and bright. Wind and rain will come when needed. Disasters and epidemics will not occur." These describe the presence of favorable climatic, geographical, and social conditions.
Nowadays, natural disasters occur more and more frequently around the world. It is worthwhile for us to reflect deeply on this. Where do disasters come from? The Buddha said: "Dependent rewards change according to proper rewards." Proper rewards refers to the human mind. Dependent rewards refers to the environment. When the human mind is good, wind and rain will come as they are needed. When the human mind is not good, disasters will occur frequently. Therefore, if we can accept the Buddha's teachings and practice accordingly, it is certain that "the sun and the moon will shine clear and bright, and wind and rain will come when needed."
In Chinese history, we read that when there was a major disaster in the nation, the emperor would cleanse his mind of impurities, abstain from all enjoyments, and maintain a vegetarian diet. He would seriously reflect on himself, "What faults do I have? Why has such a major disaster occurred?" When a disaster occurred, the emperor reflected on himself, thought about his faults, diligently ended wrongdoings, practiced virtuous conduct, corrected his wrong ways, and made a fresh start, all in the hope of changing the will of Heaven. This makes sense. This is absolutely not superstitious action. It is very rational.
If everyone accepts the Buddha's teachings and practices accordingly, cleansing one's mind and changing one's behavior, all the lands will naturally be harmonious and peaceful.
Only after people live in harmony, will we have a favorable climate. Then nature will also be harmonious and peaceful. "The sun and the moon will shine clear and bright. Wind and rain will come when needed."
During Great Master Lianchi's lifetime, there was a drought one year in Hanghou. The governor of Hangzhou requested Great Master Lianchi to pray for rain for the local people. Great Master Lianchi said, "I do not know how to pray for rain. I only know Buddha-name chanting." But since praying for rain was for the benefit of the public, he had to do his best. Playing an instrument called a wood fish and leading the followers, he walked in the fields, mindfully chanting "Amituofo." As it is said, "Sincerity will receive a response." A pure, sincere mind will naturally obtain a response. Indeed, it rained wherever the great master walked! This is a wondrous benefit from truly learning and practicing according to the Buddha's teachings. This is also the best proof.
"The country will flourish and the people will enjoy peace." "Flourish" means that manufactured goods and food are abundant. People will have sufficient food and clothing, so body and mind will be at peace, and everyone will be at ease and happy.
"There will be no need for soldiers or weapons." There will be no wars.
"Virtue will be revered and benevolence will be promoted." "Virtue" is morality. "Revered" means to respect and follow. "Benevolence" means putting oneself in others' positions: "Do not do to others what you would not want to be done to you." When everyone praises morality highly, and abides by laws and follows rules of conduct, society will naturally be peaceful.
"People will practice courtesy and humility. There will be no thieves or robbers in the country. There will be neither injustice nor resentment." These are the few requirements in terms of human affairs that must be fulfilled for families to be happy, societies to be harmonious, and countries to be prosperous. "Courtesy" means that people respect and yield to one another. Social order will naturally be good. As it is said, "No doors are shut at night." There will be neither injustice nor resentment" means that judicial trials are fair.
"The strong will not dominate the weak." This sentence means that everyone is able to respect one another regardless of status, wealth, or academic achievement.
"People will naturally get their fair reward." Everyone will be happy with their roles.
Ajita, you should know that doubt and delusion will do Bodhisattvas great harm and cause them to lose great benefit. Therefore, you should understand and believe the supreme wisdom of all Buddhas.
"Ajita" is Maitreya Bodhisattva. At the discourse on the Infinite Life Sutra, there were two primary beneficiaries: Elder Ananda in the first part of the discourse and Maitreya Bodhisattva in the latter part. The significance of this is very profound. As Maitreya Bodhisattva will be the next Buddha in this world, the Buddha exhorted him, that when he attained Buddhahood in the future, to be sure to speak the Infinite Life Sutra and to urge people to mindfully chant the Buddha-name and seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land.
"You should know that doubt and delusion will do Bodhisattvas great harm and cause them to lose great benefit." "Doubt" refers to having doubts about the Dharma door of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land--of "belief, vow, and mindfully chanting the Buddha-name." Consequently, this loss is too immense. For example, if a Bodhisattva believes in "belief, vow, and mindfully chanting the Buddha-name," sincerely chants "Amituofo," and seeks rebirth in the Pure Land, he will attain Buddhahood in one lifetime. He does not need to go through three asamkheya kalpas. This is why here the Buddha said that not believing the Pure Land method is an immense loss.
We usually do not have true confidence in Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. We still have doubts. Although we learn Buddhism, we continue to consult with fortune-tellers and Feng Shui experts. This means that we do not have confidence in Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Our minds are contaminated with impurities. The loss is enormous. The purpose of learning Buddhism is to seek a pure mind--One Mind Undisturbed.
"Therefore, you should understand and believe the supreme wisdom of all Buddhas." The three Pure Land sutras contain the teachings of being mindful of Buddha and seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land. We will still not completely understand this even if we have the help of the Buddhas' causal vows.
If this lifetime, we have encountered the Pure Land method. If we can truly believe and vow to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land, then this is supreme wisdom. Not only is our wisdom supreme, our good fortune is also supreme. If we do not have the highest wisdom and good fortune, we will not practice this method.
The Buddha said: "They plant the good roots, and they are unable to detach from form. They do not seek the Buddha's wisdom. They are deeply attached to worldly pleasures and the good fortune of the human world. Although they repeatedly cultivate good fortune, the rewards they seek are in the human and heavenly paths. When they obtain the rewards, everything will be abundant, but they are unable to leave the prison of the Three Realms."
"The Buddha said, 'They plant the good roots, and they are unable to detach from form.'" This is cultivation with attachment to form. When one has wandering thoughts, discriminations, and attachments, and aspires to do good deeds, one will receive good rewards in the future. But having thought of seeking the good fortune of the human and heavenly paths is a great obstacle.
"They do not seek the Buddha's wisdom." "Buddha's wisdom" is mentioned in the previous excerpt: "You should understand and believe the supreme wisdom of all Buddhas." To seek the Buddha's wisdom of all Buddhas." To seek the Buddha's wisdom is to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land. The Pure Land is "the supreme wisdom of all Buddhas."
True wisdom is not to be sought. (Wisdom comes by letting go of attachments, discriminations, and wandering thoughts. From deep concentration, wisdom arises. It cannot be sought by thinking that one wants wisdom. The thought about seeking wisdom is a wandering thought.) It is the complete understanding of everything. When the Buddha taught all beings, he answered questions as they were raised, without thinking or contemplating the answer. This is because true wisdom is the innate ability of the true nature. It is innate in the true nature and is not acquired from learning. This is why Ashvaghosha Bodhisattva taught us to be free of the mark of speech, the mark of terms, and the mark of mental cognition.
Being free of the mark of speech means not being attached to the words when one listens to the lectures on the sutras. Being free of the mark of terms means not being attached to terminology. Being free of the mark of mental cognition means not using the sixth consciousness to think and contemplate.
Listening to lectures on the sutras without being attached to the mark of speech, the mark of terms, and the mark of mental cognition is cultivating meditative concentration. Listening clearly and understanding perfectly is cultivating wisdom. Listening to the lectures on the sutras in this way is the simultaneous practice of meditative concentration and wisdom.
"They are deeply attached to worldly pleasures." Being deeply attached to worldly pleasures is a hindrance that arises from afflictions. One is deeply attached to the Five Desires and the Six Dusts, and to riches and honor and is unwilling to let go of them. "Not seeking the Buddha's wisdom" is a hindrance that arises from the attachment to knowledge. These two hindrances are extremely serious.
"Although they repeatedly cultivate good fortune, the rewards they seek are in the human and heavenly paths." This is saying that if one truly observes the precepts and practices goodness, one will have the karmic result of being reborn in the human or heavenly path. If one practices good deeds but transgresses the precepts, one will have the karmic result of being reborn in the Three Evil Paths.
When one who practices good deeds but transgresses the precepts is reborn in the path of hungry ghosts, one will be a king of the ghosts or a deity. Generally the spirits that the Chinese people worship have great influence, are rich, powerful, and have many followers. If one is reborn in the animal path, one will be a pet in a wealthy family and enjoy good fortune in that path. These are examples of those who cultivate good fortune but transgress the precepts.
"When they obtain the rewards, everything will be abundant." When one receives the good fortune in the human and heavenly paths, one may be a high government official, a general, or belong to a rich family. But which one of them has not created negative karmas or wronged people since ancient times? When one uses up one's good fortune, one will probably go to the Three Evil Paths in the next lifetime. Even if one does not go to the Three Evil Paths, one will not be that rich in the human path. Each lifetime will become worse and worse than the previous one.
When we realize this, how can we not go to the Western Pure Land?
When we look at the conduct and actions of the powerful or influential people in today's society, then we know that we do not want to come back to this human world again. If we do come to the human path again, we should come as a Buddha or a Bodhisattva manifested as a being. If we do not come as a Buddha or Bodhisattva manifested as a being, it is still karmic retribution--this is terrible!
We should be constantly vigilant: enjoying the good fortune in the human path is very frightening, but enjoying the good fortune in the heavenly path is not the ultimate either. Although there are few opportunities for us to commit evil deeds in heaven, we will still fall into a lower path when the good fortune is used up. As it is stated in the Lotus Sutra: "There is no peace in the Three Realms, just like a house on fire.
There are beings who plant good roots and create immense fields of good fortune. But they hold on to form, discriminate, and have a deep and strong attachment to feelings. They seek to transcend samsara but ultimately will be unable to do so.
The previous excerpt talks about people who "are unable to detach from form. They do not seek the Buddha's wisdom." This excerpt talks about those who "hold on to form, discriminate, and have a deep and strong attachment to feelings." This is a criterion for cultivation -- if one commits all these, one will not be able to transcend the Three Realms. At most, one will only enjoy imperfect good fortune in the Three Realms. In this world, one who has great wealth or prestige is one who cultivated in past lifetimes but was unable to eliminate attachment to feelings. Consequently, one obtains their good fortune in the human and heavenly paths.
Therefore, if one truly learns and practices Buddhism and wants to transcend samsara, one must correct one's past wrongs and cultivate good karma for one's future, and cleanse one's mind and change one's behavior. Whether one does a good deed, great or small, one absolutely should not hold on to form, discriminate, or even be attached to it. One should always maintain a pure mind, always be mindful of Amitabha Buddha, and seek rebirth in the Pure Land--everything else should be cleansed.
In "create immense fields of good fortune," "create" is more wondrous than "plant". "Plant" means that one plants the field alone. "Create" means that one allows all beings to come and plant.
For example, giving wealth and possessions and making offerings to the Three Jewels are fields of good fortune. If we build a cultivation center, we "create immense fields of good fortune," as we allow many beings to come and plant good fortune.
Another example is being filial and providing for parents--this is a field of good fortune. If we run a retirement home, this is also to "create immense fields of good fortune."
Charitable undertakings like these are great fields of good fortune. We should sincerely and wholeheartedly engage in these undertakings, but we should not "hold on to form, discriminate." Otherwise, we will not be able to handle things fairly and our minds will not be pure.
Having impure minds and handling things unfairly -- doing good deeds this way, ultimately, we will not be able to succeed in seeking to transcend samsara.
Be filial to the Buddha and be constantly mindful of the teachers' kindness. Let this teaching stay in this world for the longest time and do not let it die out. Firmly uphold it and do not let it be destroyed or lost.
"Be filial to the Buddha." What do we do to be filial to the Buddha? We follow his teachings and practice accordingly. If our minds, vows, understanding, practices, and virtues are the same as those of the Buddha and we become one with him, this is being filial to the Buddha.
The Avatamaska Sutra says: "Sentient and non-sentient beings all have the same Buddha-wisdom." This is the showing of filial piety being practiced to perfection. In this sutra, filial piety is an impartial mind and an awakened mind. When one has discriminations and attachments, one is not impartial. When one is free of all discriminations and attachments, the entire Dharma Realm will be one entity. At that time, the pure Dharma Body will manifest. Filial piety arises therefrom. Phenomenally, filial piety is an impartial, greatly compassionate mind. Great wisdom and great compassion are filial piety at work.
One should "be constantly mindful of the teachers' kindness.' "Teachers" refers to good teachers. After the Buddha entered parinirvana, the past patriarchs and eminent masters passed down the Buddha's teachings. Thus, we are able to hear the Dharma. Therefore, we should be constantly mindful of the kindness of the Buddha and the past great teachers who passed down the Dharma.
How do we repay their kindness? By practicing the teachers' teachings and propagating them extensively! This is repaying the teachers' kindness.
The Buddha's original vow teaches us "to provide all manner of sentient beings the benefit of escaping the long night (Long night refers to cycle of rebirth and death within the Five Paths. There are sufferings in the Five Paths.) and not let them fall into the five paths of rebirth and undergo sufferings." We should wholeheartedly and diligently put in our utmost effort to fulfill this.
"Let this teaching stay in this world for the longest time and do not let it die out". This action truly fulfills filial piety to the Buddha and mindfulness of the teachers' kindness. "Let this teaching stay in this world for the longest time and do not let it die out" also refers specifically to the Dharma door of mindfully chanting the Buddha-name and seeking rebirth in the Western Pure Land as taught in this sutra. We should diligently practice it and do our best to propagate it so that it will not die out.
"Firmly uphold it." We should firmly hold on to our belief and vow and diligently propagate the Buddha's teachings.
There are two ways to look at "not let it be destroyed or lost." The first: we misunderstand the teachings, so our learning and practice do not accord with the teachings. The teachings are thus destroyed and lost.
The second is that we use our worldly intelligence and do not propagate the teachings according to the true Dharma. As a result, the people who listen misunderstand the teachings, and they cannot attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land. This is also destroying and losing the teachings.
Therefore, we should learn and practice according to the Buddha's teachings. We should also propagate the Dharma in accordance with how the Buddha taught us. In this way, we will not cause the Buddhas' and patriarchs' teachings to be destroyed or lost by us.
This Dharma assembly comes to a perfect completion now.
May the merits and virtues accrued from this work adorn the Buddha's Pure Land, repay the Four Kinds of Kindness above, and relieve the sufferings of those in the Three Paths below.
May all those who see and hear of this bring forth the heart of understanding and compassion, and at the end of this life, be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
In August 1993, Venerable Master Chin Kung gave an eight-hour lecture series titled "Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra" at Ta Kioh Buddhist Temple in San Francisco, USA. The lecture series consist of sixty excerpts that were identified and selected by him from the sutra. Now the excerpts were compiled and translated from his lecture notes which becomes the text "Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra".
See the foreword by Master Chin Kung that introduced the essence of the Infinite Life Sutra.