(This is an extension of ‘Are You a Good Man or Woman’)
Question: Can you give more assurance as to how I can become a Good Man or Good Woman?
Answer: Let us take a look at the lowest grade of birth in Pure Land, as stated in the Contemplation Sutra:
The Buddha said to Ananda and Vaidehi, ‘Those who attain birth on the lowest level of the lowest grade are the sentient beings who commit such evils as the five gravest offenses, the ten evil acts and all kinds of immorality. Owing to such evil karma, the fool like this will fall into evil realms and suffer endless agony for many kelps.
When he is about to die, he may meet a good teacher, who consoles him in various ways, teaching him the wonderful Dharma and urging him to be mindful of the Buddha; but he is too tormented by pain to do so. The good teacher then advises him, ‘If you cannot concentrate on the Buddha, then you should say instead, Homage to Amitayus Buddha.’ In this way, he sincerely and continuously says ‘Homage to Amita Buddha’ [Na-mo-A-mi-tuo-fo] ten times. Because he calls the Buddha’s Name, with each repetition, the evil karma which he has committed during eighty kotis of kalpas of Samsara is extinguished. When he comes to die, he sees before him a golden lotus-flower like the disk of the sun, and in an instant he is born within a lotus-bud in the Land of Utmost Bliss.
Though the first bolded part clearly describes one who is the direct opposite of a Good Man or Good Woman, the second bolded part however explains that if he or she is able to repent and practise in time and accordingly with faith and aspiration, he or she can still be born in Pure Land. This is an extreme example of how one can still become a Good Man or Good Woman in the very last minute, even if one was very evil before.
Not that we should emulate the case above (for we might not be able to repent and practise in time), but we should have some confidence from this, that if we do not engage in such great evils, while we are diligently increasing our Three Provisions of faith, aspiration and practice, our affinities for being born in Pure Land will be even much greater.
Incidentally, Buddha mindfulness is the only Dharma practice that can help avert an otherwise ‘destined’ rebirth in the lower realms (the worst being the hells) due to great evils done. This is possible by utilising the Buddha’s compassionate sharing of his merits with anyone who is adequately mindful of him. His boundless merits are always much more than all of the negative karma created by an individual, which makes it capable of depowering the latter to a great extent. (For more on how this works, see http://tinyurl.com/Amituofo174) It should be noted that, generally, the greater evil one has done, the more difficult it will be to repent in time, before rebirth. As such, we should always avoid doing evil and do as much good as we can instead, thus being Good Men and Good Women. Many little evils can amass to be great negative karma, which leads to great regret that disturbs peace of mind, thus jeopardising proper practice of Buddha mindfulness while alive and on the deathbed.