How To Transform The Five Defilements To Five Purities With Nianfo? 如何以念佛转五浊成五清?

Written by Purelanders



Verse For Bathing Buddhas

As I now bathe all Thus Come Ones (Buddha Tathagatas),
may pure wisdom adorn the ocean of meritorious virtues.
May sentient beings with the five defilements depart
from the dusts (of afflictions),

and together realise the Tathagatas’ pure Dharma body.


Question: What are the Five Defilements (Corruptions; Turbidities)? How can we transform them?


Answer: The answers can be seen in the Ninth Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition’s Great Master Ouyi’s teaching in his ‘Essential Explanation Of The Sutra As Spoken By The Buddha On Amitabha Buddha’:

(一)Part 1:


On the Defilement Of Kalpa, it is when defiled dharmas [phenemona of mind and matter, such as the below] gather.


Within the Defilement Of Kalpa, [if] not by the practice of bringing [negative] karma to horizontally [i.e. directly] exit [the three spheres of existence, of desire, form and formlessness with Pure Land practice], [one] most certainly will not be able to be delivered [from the cycle of birth and death].


On the Defilement Of Views, there are five sharp agents [of afflictions for sharper practitioners], when evil views increase and flourish. Namely, Self View [of thinking there is self within the body], Extreme View [of clinging to extremely wrong concepts], Attachment To Views [which are strong personal delusions], Attachment To Precepts [as the complete path to liberation] and all Evil Views [which are other wrong views, such as disregard of the karmic law of cause and effect], [which make us] confused and sunken [in the bitter sea of the Saha World, with “Endurance” of suffering]. Thus is it named as a defilement.


Within the Defilement Of Views, not using [the Pure Land] practice, that is without [use of other] expedient [or skilful] means, [one] most certainly will not be able to be delivered [from the cycle of birth and death].


On the Defilement Of Afflictions, there are five dull agents [of afflictions for duller practitioners], when afflictions and confusions increase and flourish. Namely, greed [or attachment], hatred [or aversion], delusion [or ignorance], pride [or arrogance] and doubt as afflictions that cause anxiety and confusion. Thus is it named as a defilement.


Within the Defilement Of Afflictions, [if] not using [the Pure Land] practice of [seeing that] even though with the ordinary mind, [it can be one with] the Buddha’s mind, [one] most certainly will not be able to be delivered [from the cycle of birth and death].


On the Defilement Of Sentient Beings, by [the Defilement Of] Views and [the Defilement Of] Afflictions confused, coarsely and detrimentally are the five aggregates [of form, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness] combined, falsely named as sentient beings, with forms and minds together all lowly and inferior. Thus is it named as a defilement.


Sentient beings within this defilement, [if] not using [the Pure Land] practice of rejoicing [for birth in Pure Land] and having aversion [for birth and death in the Saha World, one] most certainly will not be able to be delivered [from the cycle of birth and death].


On the Defilement Of Lifespans, with cause and effect [i.e. karma] together lowly, lifespans are fleetingly short, and even not fulfilling a hundred years. Thus is it named as a defilement.


Within the Defilement Of Lifespan, [if] not by not wasting indefinite kalpas [i.e. time], not working diligently [with the Pure Land practice, one] most certainly will not be able to be delivered [from the cycle of birth and death].

复次只此信愿庄严一声阿弥陀佛,Once again, only with such Faith and Aspiration adorning each recitation of ‘Amituofo’,


transform the Defilement Of Kalpa into a pure ocean[-wide] assembly,


transform the Defilement Of Views into immeasurable light [of wisdom],


transform the Defilement Of Afflictions into the eternal still light [of peace],


transform the Defilement Of Sentient Beings into lotus flower transformed beings,


[and] transform the Defilement Of Lifespans into immeasurable life.

(二)Part 2:

[经]: [释迦牟尼佛]: 舍利弗,当知我于五浊恶世,行此难事,得阿耨多罗三藐三菩提,为一切世间说此难信之法,是为甚难。

[Sūtra]: [Śākyamuni Buddha]: Śāriputra, you should know that I, in this evil period of the five defilements, accomplished this difficult matter, of attaining Anuttarā Samyak Saṃbodhi, and for all in the world spoke this Dharma, that is difficult to have faith in. This is extremely difficult!


With Faith and Aspiration upholding the name [of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’] as a [complete] practice, it does not involve contrived action, to completely transform the Five Defilements. Only by Faith thus entered, is this inconceivable practice’s realm. If not for our fundamental teacher’s [Sakyamuni Buddha] coming and entering of this evil age [of Five Defilements], to manifest attainment of Bodhi [i.e. Buddhahood], with great wisdom and great compassion, seeing this, practising this, and speaking this, how can [we] sentient beings receive this [teaching]?


However, we, [if] staying within the Defilement Of Kalpa, definitely will be, by this period be imprisoned, and by suffering be compelled.


[If] staying within the Defilement Of Views, [we] definitely will be, by evil knowledge be tangled, and by evil teachers be confused.


[If] staying within the Defilement Of Afflictions, [we] definitely will be, by greedy desires be trapped, by evil karma be stung [and poisoned].


[If] staying within the Defilement Of Sentient Beings, [we] definitely will be ‘resting’ in stinking defilements, yet not able to be thoroughly aware [of them, instead] willing to [remain] inferior and weak, and not be able to exert [efforts], to take flight [to liberation]. 


[If] staying within the Defilement Of Lifespans, [we] definitely will, by impermanence be swallowed, [as swiftly as] flint sparks and lightning [flashes come and go], catching [us unaware and] by surprise, [making it too late to practise in time].


If not deeply knowing these extreme difficulties, there will [be the wrong] assumption that there is another Dharma [method that] for exiting from the Five Defilements, [which is to, in this] hot and burning house [of the three spheres about to collapse], playing with arguments while confused in flames. Only by deeply knowing these extreme difficulties, then are we willing to completely end our stealing minds [that deludedly crave for some other ‘better’ means to liberation], to treasure this one [precious Pure Land] practice. This is why our fundamental teacher exhaustively spoke of these extreme difficulties, and deeply exhorted us, on what we should know this. [This] first universal exhortation is [thus] complete.

[Note: Not only are we in an evil age with the Five Defilements, we are in the Dharma-Ending Age too. This makes Pure Land practice doubly relevant, important and urgent.]

Related Explanation:

上部分: 为何念佛难信?
Previous Section: Why Is Buddha Mindfulness Difficult To Believe In?

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

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