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Master Shandao’s Exegesis of the Sincere Mind, Part Four

By Alan Kwan
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-01-27 |
An illustrated logarithmic scale conception of the observable Universe with our solar system at the center by Pablo Carlos Budassi. From sciencealert.comAn illustrated logarithmic scale conception of the observable Universe with our solar system at the center by Pablo Carlos Budassi. From sciencealert.com

Last time, we explored how a Pure Land aspirant attains both “genuineness in self-benefiting” and “genuineness in benefiting others” through the dedication of real merits in meditative and non-meditative virtuous practices. Master Shandao indicates that a Pure Land aspirant can also attain the “real” virtues and merits dedicated by Amitabha for his rebirth in six different ways through Amitabha-invocation—which are, in reality, the six kinds of practices of the threefold karma performed by Amitabha Buddha, with a genuine mind, for sentient beings during his cultivation in the causal ground (i.e. the field of influence of his practices as Bodhisattva Dharmakara).

So, upon Amitabha’s fulfillment of the 48 vows, particularly the three vows of deliverance (the 18th, the 19th, and the 20th vows), whoever seeks refuge in Amitabha and invokes him with the threefold karma (i.e. form of practice) of verbal, physical, and mental acts, rebirth in his Pure Land (i.e. form of mindset) will be genuinely benefited. The effect will be the same as if he practiced, with a genuine mind, the threefold karma for being reborn in the Land of Bliss.

A practitioner merely needs to believe and accept Amitabha’s teaching of deliverance and dedication of merits through Amitabha’s Name to attain a genuine mind. This is Amitabha’s “genuineness in benefiting others” through “genuineness in self-benefiting
;” thus, the practitioner’s invocation of Amitabha Buddha with the threefold karma is said to be “performed with a genuine mind,” because the practitioner’s form of mindset and his form of practice match one another, and are aligned with Amitabha’s vows of deliverance.

Threefold Karma: Verbal acts with a genuine mind of aspiration and renunciation

The first of the threefold karma is verbal acts with a genuine “mind of aspiration” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Master Shandao writes: [In this respect, the aspirant needs to make] verbal acts, with a genuine mind, praising Amitabha Buddha and that Buddha's two kinds of fulfillment—both the direct rewards (beings) and the circumstantial rewards (land).

The second is related to verbal acts with a genuine “mind of renunciation” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Master Shandao writes: Moreover, [the aspirant needs to make] verbal acts, with a genuine mind, deploring and loathing the pain and evil of the two kinds of recompense—both the direct rewards (beings) and the circumstantial rewards (land)for himself and others within the three realms and six courses [of rebirth]. In addition, he has to praise the virtuous acts, by all sentient beings, performed with the threefold karma. Regarding non-virtuous acts, one should respectfully keep one’s distance and not rejoice at their accomplishment.

Threefold Karma: Bodily acts with a genuine mind of aspiration and renunciation


The third is related to bodily acts with a genuine “mind of aspiration” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Master Shandao writes: Further, [the aspirant needs to make] bodily acts, with a genuine mind, paying homage with joined hands to Amitabha Buddha and the Buddha's two kinds of fulfillment—both the direct rewards (beings) and the circumstantial rewards (land)—venerating them, and making offerings to them with the four kinds of necessities of daily life.        

The fourth is related to the bodily acts with a genuine “mind of renunciation” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Master Shandao writes: And, [the aspirant needs to make] bodily acts, with a genuine mind, demonstrating both for himself and others a loathing and abandonment of the two kinds of recompense within the three realms of birth-and-death—both the direct rewards (beings) and the circumstantial rewards (land)—holding them of no account.

Threefold Karma: Mental acts with a genuine mind of aspiration and renunciation


The fifth is related to mental acts with a genuine “mind of aspiration” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Master Shandao writes: Further, [the aspirant needs to make] mental acts, with a genuine mind, thinking, observing, and remaining mindful of Amitabha Buddha and that Buddha's two kinds of fulfillment—both the direct rewards (beings) and the circumstantial rewards (land)—as if these were present before his eyes.

The sixth is related to mental acts with a genuine “mind of renunciation” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Master Shandao writes: And, [the aspirant needs to make] mental acts, with a genuine mind, of despising, loathing, and abandoning (both for himself and others) the two kinds of recompense—both the direct rewards (beings) and the circumstantial rewards (land)—in the three realms of birth-and-death.

The significance of a genuine mind in the six practices of Amitabha-invocation


In the preceding passage, each section begins with the phrase “with a genuine mind” in explaining the six practices of Amitabha-invocation, so it is important to understand what it refers to. It means that the form of mindset (for rebirth in the Land of Bliss) and the form of practice (the threefold karma of Amitabha-invocation) match one another.

In other words, sentient beings that invoke Amitabha Buddha for the sole purpose of rebirth are practicing in accordance with Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow of deliverance, and are said
to perform with a genuine mind. Why is this so?

This is because of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow that states: If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the correct teaching.

Through pure, true, and real practices performed with a genuine mind prior to attaining Buddhahood, Amitabha Buddha accomplished his 48 vows ten kalpas ago. Amitabha is a Buddha of the present and his Fundamental Vow is real too. As he has attained perfect Nirvana, he has fulfilled what he promised in the Fundamental Vow: to facilitate the rebirth of all sentient beings in his Pure Land who call or invoke his name.

That is the reason why our rebirth is a natural result of Amitabha-invocation of the threefold karma. It is governed by Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, which is genuine, like a law of nature, the Law of Cause and Effect. Most importantly, it should be understood that the genuine mind mentioned in the six practices of Amitabha-invocation is based on Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow—genuineness in self-benefiting (may I not attain perfect Enlightenment) and genuineness in benefiting others (should not be born there).

Finally: Amitabha’s name in the form of light (the dharma body of Amitabha Buddha) carries abundant virtuous roots and meritorious blessings, enabling us to be reborn in the Pure Land. 

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