How To First Purify The Mind To Avoid Evil & Do Good?

Question: For Nianfo practitioners [of practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’], is the sequence of Dharma cultivation first to [3] purify the mind, followed by to [1] avoid all evil, and to [2] do all good?

Answer: The right sequence for Dharma cultivation is usually 1,2,3, as above. This is according to the Dhammapada (法句经) quote by the Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) – ‘To avoid all evil, to do all good, and to purify the mind, this is the teaching of all Buddhas.’ (诸恶莫作,众善奉行,自净其意,是诸佛教。)

Q: In an analogy, Nianfo is likened to one’s main staple food, to be eaten (representing the Main Practice) most regularly (and diligently), while avoiding of evil and doing of good are likened to the side dishes for extra nutrition (representing Supportive Practices). If so, should the sequence not be 3,1,2?

A: I see what you mean… For general Dharma cultivation, the sequence is 1,2,3. However, when it comes to Nianfo, it is indeed more of 3,1,2. This is in accordance to this teaching by the Pure Land tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ouyi (净土宗九祖澫益大师) in his ‘Spirit Peak [School’s] Essential Treatise’ (灵峰宗论) – ‘With Faith and Aspiration [Vow] already complete, [wholehearted (utmost sincere) mindful] recitation of the name of Buddha [Amituofo] is then as the “Main Practice”, while correction of evil and cultivation of good are all as “Supportive Practices”.’ (信愿既具,念佛方为正行,改恶修善皆为助行。)

Nianfo as one’s Main Practice takes care of [3], which actually takes care of [1] and [2] at the same time too, as a more pure mind will naturally avoid evil more and do good more, all more naturally. This is one of the reasons why Nianfo is such an excellent practice, because it tunes to one’s Buddha-nature directly with alignment to Amituofo’s blessings too.

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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