Translations

Why Must Pure Land Teachings Be Mastered First? 为何必须先学好净土法门?

‘末世众生,欲了生死,非仗佛力,决难如愿。

‘[This] Dharma-Ending Age’s sentient beings, [if] desiring to be liberated [from the cycle of] birth and death, [do] not rely on [connecting to Amitabha] Buddha’s [other-]power, [it will] definitely be difficult [to accomplish] as wished.

至于各宗法门,俱应研究。而智识浅鲜,世务纷繁之人,何能兼顾?欲学余宗,必须净土已得大通,了无疑惑,方可。

As for each [Buddhist] school [or tradition’s] Dharma door, all should be studied [later in this lifetime, or in Pure Land]. Yet, [for those whose] wisdom and knowledge [or analytical minds are] meagre [or weak], whose worldly affairs are numerous and complicated, how [are they] able to, at the same time, give attention [to both? Those who] desire to learn [about] other schools, must, of the Pure Land [teachings], already [have] attained great understanding, [and be] without any uncertainty [about them]. Then, is it suitable [to do so].

若净宗不通,一学余宗,稍有所得,便将净土置之度外。将来所得之益,只可作未来得度之因,决不能即生便出生死也。

If the Pure Land school is not understood, once there is learning of other schools, [with] a little [understanding] attained, [you might] then, of the Pure Land [teachings], give no [further] regard [to them]. Of the benefits [from learning of other schools] to be attained in the future, [they can] only become causes to attain liberation in future [lives, with you] definitely not being able to, in this lifetime, easily exit [from the cycle of] birth and death [in this lifetime].

汝于净土,尚未知门径,何得便欲学唯识?今之学佛者,多半皆属好高务胜,欲于大众前作通家,并非为了生死以学佛也。

[Since] you, of the Pure Land teachings, [have] still yet to know the door and path [to them for access], how [can it be] proper then, to desire learning the Mind-Only [school’s teachings, or any others]? [Of] today’s learners of the Buddha[‘s teachings], most [of them] all belong to those who aim [too] high, [who] devote [their] efforts [to be] supreme, desiring to, before the masses, [appear to] be experts [in theory only], and [yet, they do] not learn the Buddha[‘s teachings] for liberation [from the cycle of] birth and death [in this lifetime].

汝欲学佛,必须敦伦尽分,闲邪存诚,诸恶莫作,众善奉行。真为生死,发菩提心,以深信愿,持佛名号。能如是者,乃真佛弟子。

[Since] you desire to learn the Buddha’s teachings, [you] must, “[With] kindness [in] human relationships, [to the] utmost fulfil [your] part [responsibly], end evil [thoughts], maintain sincerity, [integrity and respect, of] all evils not do [them and for] all good fulfil [them].” [Note: This is a famous saying by the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yinguang (净土宗十三祖印光大师).] “Truly for [transcending the cycle of] birth and death, give rise to the Bodhi mind [Bodhicitta: Aspiration to attain Buddhahood and guide all to attain it too], with profound (or deep) Faith and sincere Aspiration, uphold [Nianfo Practice of mindfulness of Amitabha] Buddha’s name [i.e. Amituofo].” [Note: This is a famous saying by the Pure Land Tradition’s 12th Patriarch Great Master Chewu (净土宗十二祖彻悟大师).] [Those] able [to] thus [practise, are] then true disciples of the Buddha.

若所作所为,与佛相反,则纵能精修,亦难感格于佛。以心行与佛相背故也。’

If that done and that become, are opposite of the Buddha[‘s teachings], then, even if able to diligently cultivate [practice, it] is also difficult to move [or impress] the Buddha. [This is] thus as the mind’s intention and the Buddha[‘s intention] are with their backs to each other.’

– 净土宗十三祖印光大师
(复王智卓居士书)

– Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yinguang
(Reply letter to Layman Wang Zhizhuo)

Summary:
In this era, it is very difficult to be liberated in this lifetime without Pure Land practice [being the Easy Path with other-power for support]. Thus, [to prioritise our limited time], all other teachings, which [might] require much wisdom and efforts to learn, should be learnt only after mastering the Pure Land teachings. [Otherwise], even by being satisfied from having understood a little of other teachings, [this might lead to] disregard for the Pure Land teachings. [Since] these other teachings cannot lead to liberation in this lifetime, at most, they can become causes for liberation in future lives. Many who learn too much without [focus on] the Pure Land teachings are [thus] aiming too high [with their limited self-power, only to become superficial theoretical] experts for fame, who are not liberated. To learn well, we must be kind to all our relations, avoid all evil and do all good. Also, to truly for liberation, give rise to Bodhicitta, with strong Faith and sincere Aspiration practise Nianfo. To do otherwise, even if diligently, is not in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings [for liberation in this lifetime].

Notes:
[1] 
The above does not discourage wide learning of the Buddha’s teachings, while it does encourage focus on learning the Pure Land teachings well first.
[2] Although Bodhicitta is the best kind of strong Aspiration encouraged for birth in Pure Land, that leads to higher births, it is not a must to be given rise to. As long with the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration and Practice, Pure Land can still be reached, where Bodhicitta will be given rise to perfectly.

Related Article:
Can Pure Land Practitioners Reach Buddhahood In This Lifetime?
http://purelanders.com/2015/12/02/can-pure-land-practitioners-reach-buddhahood-in-this-lifetime

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!