Ten Doubts about Pure Land
By Tien Tai Patriarch Chih I
Translated by Master Thich Thien Tam
Great Compassion is the life calling of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Thus, those who have developed the Bodhi Mind, wishing to rescue and ferry other sentient beings across, should simply vow to be reborn in the Triple Realm, among the five turbidities and the three evil paths. Why should we abandon sentient beings to lead a selfish life of tranquillity? Is this not a lack of compassion, a preoccupation with egoistic needs, contrary to the path of enlightenment?
There are two types of Bodhisattvas. The first type are those who have followed the Bodhisattva path for a long time and attained the Tolerance of Non-Birth (insight into the non-origination of phenomena). This reproach applies to them.
The second type are Bodhisattvas who have not attained the Tolerance of Non-Birth, as well as ordinary beings who have just developed the Bodhi Mind. If they aspire to perfect that Tolerance and enter the evil life of the Triple Realm to save sentient beings, they should remain in constant proximity to the Buddhas. As stated in the Perfection of Wisdom Treatise:
"It is unwise for human beings who are still bound by all kinds of afflictions, even if they possess a great compassionate mind, to seek a premature rebirth in this evil realm to rescue sentient beings.
"Why is this so? It is because in this evil, defiled world, afflictions are powerful and widespread. Those who lack the power of Tolerance (of Non-Birth) are bound to be swayed by the external circumstances. They then become slaves to form and sound, fame and fortune, with the resulting karma of greed, anger and delusion. Once this occurs, they cannot even save themselves, much less others!
"If, for example, they are born in the human realm, in this evil environment full of non-believers and externalists, it is difficult to encounter genuine teachers. Therefore, it is not easy to hear the Buddhadharma nor to achieve the goals of the sages.
"Of those who planted the seeds of generosity, morality and blessings in previous lives and are thus now enjoying power and fame, how many are not infaturated with a life of wealth and honor, wallowing in endless greed and lust?
"Therefore, even when they are counselled by enlightened teachers, they do not believe them nor act accordingly. Moreover, to satisfy their passions, they take adavantage of their existing power and influence, creating a great deal of bad karma. Thus, when their present life comes to an end, they descend upon the three evil paths for countless eons. After that, they are reborn as humans of low social and economic status. If they do not then meet good spiritual advisors, they will continue to be deluded, creating more bad karma and descending once again into the lower realms. From time immemorial, sentient beings caught in the cycle of Birth and Death have been in this predicament. This is called the 'Difficult Path of Practice'."
The Vimalakirti Sutra also states,
"If you cannot even cure your own illness, how can you cure the illness of others?"
The Perfection of Wisdom Treatise further states:
"Take the case of two persons, each of whom watches a relative drowning in the river. The first person, acting on impulse, hastily jumps into the water. However, because he lacks the necessary skills, in the end, both of them drown. The second person, more intelligent and resourceful, hurries off to fetch a boat and sails to the rescue. Thus, both persons escape drowning.
"Newly aspiring Bodhisattvas are like the first individual who still lacks the power of Tolerance (of Non-Rebirth) and cannot save sentient beings. Only those Bodhisatttvas who remain close to the Buddhas and attain that Tolerance can substitute for the Buddhas and ferry countless sentient beings across, just like the person who has the boat."
The Perfection of Wisdom Treatise goes on to state:
"This is not unlike a young child who should not leave his mother, lest he fall into a well, drown in the river or die of starvation; or a young bird whose wings are not fully developed. It must bide its time, hopping from branch to branch, until it can fly afar, leisurely and unimpeded.
"Ordinary persons who lack the Tolerence of Non-Birth should limit themselves to Buddha Recitation, to achieve one-pointedness of Mind. Once that goal is reached, at the time of death, they will certainly be reborn in the Pure Land. Having seen Amitabha Buddha and reached the Tolerance of Non-Birth, they can steer the boat of that Tolerance into the sea of Birth and Death, to ferry sentient beings across and accomplish countless Buddha deeds at will."
For these reasons, compassionate practitioners who wish to teach and convert sentient beings in hell, or enter the sea of Birth and Death, should bear in mind the causes and conditions for rebirth in the Pure Land. This is referred to as the 'Easy Path of Practice' in the Commentary on the Ten Stages of the Bodhisattvas.
"Enlightenment is to turn around and see MY own mistake, Other's mistake is also my mistake. Others are right even if they are wrong. i'm wrong even if i'm right. " - Master Chin Kung