FEATURES|COLUMNS|Teachings of Amitabha
Summary of the Exegesis on the Three States of Mind, Part Four
As Pure Land practitioners, we aim high (becoming a Buddha), but our aptitude is low (no meritorious roots or wisdom) and our capacity is limited(no virtuous blessing). In order to reach the ultimate goal in Buddhism, we need Amitabha’s compassionate deliverance and rely on his great vow power. Pure Land Buddhism is a difficult-to-believe, but easy-to-practice teaching, that is particularly suitable for sentient beings in our world (the Saha World) at our time (the Dharma-ending Age).
Shakyamuni Buddha says in the Contemplation Sutra, “Those who acquire the Threefold State of Mind shall be assuredly reborn into that country immediately.” All sentient beings, regardless of their aptitude and capacity, can be 100 per cent assured of rebirth in Amitabha’s Land of Bliss if they recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” or “Namo Amituofo,” known as “the Great Name with a Myriad of Virtues.”
Hence, they will ultimately be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation and attain the stage of non-retrogression toward Buddhahood. All these splendid rewards received by exclusive Amitabha-reciters are originated and rooted from the fulfilment of Amitabha’s vows, particularly his Fundamental Vow; the 18th Vow.
Although many Pure Land practitioners find it is easy to attain rebirth through exclusive Amitabha-recitation with recourse to Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow power, they always find it difficult to manage their daily lives in the present life before their rebirth in another world. They may be annoyed, distracted when they come across adverse conditions caused by greed (like a sea of suffering) and hatred (like a house on fire) in the mundane world.
Do not attempt to deal with greed and hatred in our daily lives
In the parable of the Two Rivers and a White Path, Master Shandao reiterates the declaration in Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow of Deliverance, a voice from the west bank of the white path—You come at once single-heartedly with right mindfulness. I will protect you. Do not fear that you may fall into the calamities of water or fire.
Master Shandao also says the white path demonstrates that “a pure aspiration for birth arises from within sentient beings' evil passions of greed and anger.”
Master Shandao concludes and advises the Pure Land practitioner on how to deal with greed and hatred in his daily life: the practitioner sets out and treads the path of the Vow’s power, taking no notice of the rivers of water and fire, but giving his full attention and trust to the words of the two sages. After death he attains rebirth in the Land of Bliss, and upon seeing the Buddha his rejoicing knows no bounds.
Due to the difference in karmic causes in the past lives, each of us has different karmic retribution under different circumstances. It is difficult to exhaust all cases and scenarios and give advice on how to deal with afflictions in worldly matters. However, under any circumstances, we should not lose the right mindfulness of exclusive Amitabha-recitation for assured rebirth.
The three terms of “regardless” in Amitabha’s deliverance by his Name
Always bear the following in mind:
1. Amitabha’s deliverance is in effect under any circumstance. In other words, whoever sincerely (exclusively) recites his Name for assured rebirth in any place (wherever) and at any time (whenever), Amitabha Buddha will deliver and receive him pro-actively, equally and unconditionally.
2. Amitabha Buddha will deliver and receive all Pure Land aspirants who exclusively recite his Name for assured rebirth, regardless who they are, such as good or evil, monastic or householder, or wise or unwise. In his universal deliverance, Amitabha Buddha does not care about the status quo, or the aptitude and capacity of Pure Land aspirants.
3. Amitabha Buddha is not concerned with how long Pure Land aspirants exclusively recite his Name. Amitabha will deliver and receive those who exclusively recite his Name for assured rebirth, whether they recite just once before his last breath, or a billion times over his entire life.
The three wrong views to go for miscellaneous and mixed practices for rebirth
To prevent ourselves from losing the right mindfulness of exclusive Amitabha-recitation for assured rebirth, and attempting to have miscellaneous and mixed practices, we must eliminate the following thinking:
- The insufficiency of merits and virtues contained in Amitabha’s Name for assured rebirth
- Higher chance of attaining assured rebirth through miscellaneous and mixed practices
- Higher level of rebirth through miscellaneous and mixed practices
The emphasis of the Three States of Mind in the Contemplation Sutra is necessary because:
- The Contemplation Sutra is spoken for Buddhists who are ordinary beings practicing meditative and non-meditative virtues, and they must “surrender” these self-powered practices and turn around to practice Amitabha-recitation with recourse to other-power, Amitabha’s Fundamental vow power.
- The Land of Bliss is an unconditioned realm of nirvana. Any unreal merits and virtues attained through impure practices in the secular world are invalidated for rebirth in Amitabha’s Land of Bliss. So we must, in accordance with Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, take the Three States of Mind as the main cause and Amitabha-recitation as the principal karma of assurance for rebirth.
- Master Shandao concludes the Three States of Mind that those Pure Land aspirants who anticipate assured rebirth through the exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation are regarded to have the Three States of Mind, and those who anticipate rebirth through miscellaneous and mixed practices are not.