Question: How do we practise the Dharma such that our negative karma does not ripen? Answer: It is very difficult, if not impossible for ordinary beings to practise such that absolutely no negative karma ripens at all for the rest of this life and all future lives – as we are ignorant of the many kinds of negative karma we have created in the past in detail, thus being unable to know what specific negative karmic seeds to disable, and what kind of good karma to create to counter it. We might have great negative karma too, that despite the best of our self-power efforts, are inadequate to disable. As such, we should just do as much good as we can to create positive karma (or merits) to dilute the possible effects of negative karma.
There is however, a simple yet profoundly powerful and efficient way to dilute our negative karma on a regular basis – by diligent and sincere nianfo (mindfulness of Amituofo), as this latches on to Amituofo’s other-power of blessings and creates immense merits. As Amituofo has immeasurable merits, and is worthy of the greatest respect, reverent mindfulness of him naturally creates great merits. While we might be unable to disable negative karma totally in this life, it is possible to dilute much of its effects by nianfo in everyday life – to prepare for the most crucial moment we need to lighten our negative karmic load – when taking rebirth.
Q: How do we create merits for a better rebirth? A: For ordinary beings far from enlightenment, there is no actual ‘better rebirth’ unless it refers to reaching Pure Land – because there is still the tendency to spiritually backslide if reborn elsewhere. If a merely better worldly rebirth is hoped for, all that is needed is to do good deeds in general. For the best rebirth however, to reach Pure Land, where there will be no backsliding, where there is only progress towards Buddhahood, beyond general good deeds, we need diligent and sincere (wholehearted) nianfo practice based on strong Faith and Aspiration. Rebirth in Pure Land is the best rebirth because it transcends all samsaric rebirths.