Question: I have schizoaffective disorder – a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Some symptoms include impaired judgement and mood disorder. Sometimes I think I am evil-minded. And sometimes, when I think I am compassionate (good-minded), an evil thought might arise. Sometimes, when a negative thought does not arise and I check for it, it arises. When this happens, I feel resentful or worried about the impending negative karma, and try to brush off the idea that I am really evil. For example, sometimes, a part of me seems to feel jealous of a friend (who suffers from similar conditions) when she is doing better… and happy when she isn’t doing well, while another part of me seems to feel worried for her. Can this happen at the same time? How can mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha (Nianfo) help my condition? Or am I too evil to be helped?
Answer: You are not alone. As long as we are not enlightened, we are all evil-minded to some extent, having different amounts of greed, hatred and delusion (three poisons; three roots of evil) that rise and fall with different conditions. All defilements of the mind such as jealousy, resentment, worry and gleefulness (over others’ suffering) are but combinations of the three poisons. In this sense, we all suffer from various mental disorders with varying degrees. When troubled by evil thoughts, Nianfo is a way to swiftly practise repentance. This takes the mind off the creation of more evil thoughts and creates positive karma to dilute negative karma created too. Entertaining resentment or worry is in contrast pointless. Repentance should be practised regularly because we do give way to evil thoughts frequently, even if subtly. Alternating between good and evil thoughts is ‘natural’ for unenlightened beings. It is just that the frequency of change for some is faster. Good and evil thoughts cannot arise simultaneously but they can toggle between themselves quickly. Nianfo can slow this down as the mind becomes more calm and composed with mindfulness and the blessings of Amituofo.
None of us are really good or evil in a fixed worldly sense, while our pure Buddha-nature, the potential to be Buddhas is always within. As such, it is not sensible to cling to either passing good or evil thoughts. We should still avoid evil and do good, but with as little clinging to fixations and labels as possible. As you wish to dissolve your defilements with Nianfo, you are definitely not ‘too evil’ for Amituofo to help. Your condition is such that there is a higher tendency to swing between conflicting thoughts and feelings. Once you are mindful of this happening or about to happen, try to swiftly nianfo (be mindful of Amituofo via reciting his name aloud or silently). Nianfo will help you to regain equanimity and peace of mind, to be away from strong attachment or aversion towards others and yourself. When jealousy arises, nianfo to regain balance of mind, to dissolve the jealousy. This can help cultivate genuine rejoice too. When worry for anyone (including yourself) arises, nianfo to create merits for dedicating to them, to wish them well, to dissolve the worry. Remember that worry is useless as it does not help anyone.
There is no need to keep checking if you are entertaining evil thoughts for your case. When you do this, you are already thinking of evil thoughts, and they might grow. This is how it can backfire, especially since your mind tends to swing between opposite thoughts. There is no need to give the swinging any more momentum. When the urge to check if there are evil thoughts arises, just nianfo and these evil thoughts will not arise in the same moment. This is so as the mind can only have one thought in each moment. With sufficient nianfo, any existing evil thoughts will dissolve, along with the urge to check for them, as peace of mind arises. Single-minded or wholehearted nianfo is the way to gather in and heal the scattered mind. As nianfo tunes and aligns us to our pure Buddha-nature with the assistance of Amituofo’s blessings, defilements in the moment will be dissolved, according to how well we nianfo. Once Pure Land is reached after this life, as it is a realm of equanimity sustained by Amituofo’s immeasurable compassionate blessings, with no element to destabilise the mind (and its moods); only with conditions to further stabilise the mind, it is where all mental (and physical) ailments will be healed. The process of becoming cured however can begin now, through sincere and diligent nianfo. With more equanimity, judgements will less deluded too, while wisdom grows.
Just Nianfo: How Buddha Mindfulness Is Healing My Mental Illness