Question: For the very evil to reach Pure Land, other than the Three Provisions (Faith in Amita[bha] Buddha [Amituofo], Aspiration to reach his Pure Land and Practice of Nianfo: sincere mindfulness of Amituofo’s name) why is repentance often emphasized? Would this not become a ‘fourth provision’ required by Amituofo to guide them to his Pure Land, making the Three Provisions in his 18th Vow inadequate?
Answer: Amituofo’s 18th Vow in the Immeasurable Life Sutra (无量寿经) is clear that to reach his Pure Land, we are required to have the Three Provisions, with ‘(utmost) sincere hearts (minds) [and] joyful Faith, desire [have Aspiration for] birth [in] my [Amituofo’s Pure] Land, and even [with the Practice of] ten thoughts [of mindfulness]’ (‘至心信乐，欲生我国，乃至十念’) However, it does state at the end that the very evil cannot reach Pure Land as ‘Only excluded [are those with the] five rebellious [misgivings of killing one’s father, killing one’s mother, killing an Arhat, injuring a Buddha and/or causing schism in the Sangha], [and those who] slander [the] right Dharma [especially the Pure Land teachings].’ (‘唯除五逆，诽谤正法。’)
Yet, in the Contemplation Sutra (观经), Sakyamuni Buddha taught that the very evil with similar misgivings can also reach Pure Land if they give rise to the Three Provisions, if they, with ‘such (utmost) sincere hearts (minds), let [the] sound [of mindfulness be] unceasing [continuous, verbally or mentally], completing ten thoughts [of mindfulness, with Faith and Aspiration], reciting “Namo Amituofo” [Refuge for life in (and homage to) Amituofo]. [With the Practice of] reciting [the] Buddha’s name thus, within moment to moment mindfulness, eradicating 80 kotis [1 koti is 10 million or billion] of kalpas [world cycles] of transgressions of birth and death.’ (‘如是至心，令声不绝，具足十念，称”南无阿弥陀佛”。称佛名故，於念念中，除八十亿劫生死之罪。’) Such Practice with repentance in effect enables their birth in Pure Land.
Repentance for great evils thus reconciles the above excerpts. Without repentance, the very evil cannot reach Pure Land. With repentance, even the once very evil can reach Pure Land, as those with sincere repentance are no longer very evil. Repentance is not a ‘fourth provision’, but part of the Three Provisions that nurtures them, as those who have Faith and Aspiration to do Nianfo Practice are those who recognise their misgivings and wish to further purify themselves. As the very evil who are unrepentant will not wish to give rise to the Three Provisions or aspire to reach Pure Land, they cannot each Pure Land. It is not that the Three Provisions are inadequate for reaching Pure Land, but that the very evil who lack repentance make themselves inadequate in giving rise to the Three Provisions. Thus, repentance is not required by Amituofo to guide beings to his Pure Land, but a natural requirement for the very evil. Only the repentant will Nianfo, while Nianfo expresses and facilitates repentance too, not needing a separate practice.
Can The Extremely Evil Reach Pure Land?