Translations

Why Dedicate Only For Birth In Pure Land? 为何只回向往生西方?

问:我们为什么只应该为往生西方而回向功德?

Question: Why should we only dedicate meritorious virtues (i.e. merits) for birth in Pure Land?

答:以下是净土宗十三祖印光大师为陈锡周居士所书的答案。

Answer: Below is the answer by the Pure Land Traditionʼs 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng, in his letter to layperson Chén Xīzhōu, with extra explanatory notes on it.

又举凡礼拜读诵大乘经典,及作一切于世于人有益之事,悉皆以此回向西方。

Also, without exception, [for] prostration, study [with] recitation [of] Mahāyāna sūtras, and doing [of] all matters [that] have benefits for [the] world [and its] people, with all these [good (i.e. wholesome, skilful, positive) karma and meritorious virtues, they must be] dedicated [for birth in the] Western [Pure Land].

Note: All worldly and world-transcending good and purification practices done should be dedicated only for birth in Pure Land. Even after helping one or many for a worldly matter, the meritorious virtues from doing so should also be dedicated for all beings to reach Pure Land. This is a practice to increase compassion and generosity, while fortifying personal aspiration to reach Pure Land.

不可唯以念佛回向西方,其余功德,另去回向世间福报,则念不归一,便难往生。

[There] must not [be] only with mindfulness [of] Buddha [for] dedication [of its meritorious virtues to be born in the] Western [Pure Land, with] the rest [of other] meritorious virtues, separately for dedication, [for] worldly blessed rewards, [as this] thus [is with] mindfulness [that is] not unified [as] one, [which] then [makes it] difficult [to be] reborn [in Pure Land].

Note: There must not be separation of dedication of meritorious virtues for the purpose of reaching Pure Land, versus for worldly purposes, as there cannot be two ultimate purposes in this life that are contradictory in nature, with the first being a world-transcending goal, versus the latter being many worldly goals. However, as below, dedication only for the world-transcending goal of reaching Pure Land can still encompass, and not compromise certain worldly goals.

须知真能念佛,不求世间福报,而自得世间福报(如长寿无病、家门清泰、子孙发达、诸缘如意、万事吉祥等)。

[It] must [be] known, [that to] truly [be] able [to be] mindful [of] Buddha, [and] not seek worldly blessed rewards, [this] yet personally attains worldly blessed rewards (such [as] long life without sickness, [the] family clan [being] peaceful [and] safe, [with] descendants [i.e. children and grandchildren] flourishing, all conditions as wished, all matters auspicious and others).

Note: With the ultimate purpose in this life to reach Pure Land, and all meritorious virtues dedicated for this purpose, these meritorious virtues will also bear rewards in this life naturally, to lessen suffering and increase joy in worldly responsibilities, which facilitates smooth attaining of the ultimate purpose. As the purpose is clearly to reach Pure Land, these meritorious virtues will not ripen in ways that distract from it. Dedicating meritorious virtues only for worldly blessed rewards might squander them quickly, instead of using them skilfully, for the best benefits in this life, and for reaching Pure Land.

若求世间福报,不肯回向往生,则所得世间福报,反为下劣。

If seeking worldly blessed rewards, not willing [to] dedicate [for] rebirth [in Pure Land], thus [will] what attained [be] worldly blessed rewards, [which] instead are inferior.

Note: There should not be shortsightedness, to seek only worldly blessed rewards, which are not as lasting, blissful and pure, as the immeasurable rewards experienced upon reaching Pure Land, through which the supreme world-transcending reward of Buddhahood can be attained.

而心不专一,往生便难决定矣。

Moreover, [with the] mind [or heart] not focused single-mindedly [or wholeheartedly], rebirth [in Pure Land is] then difficult [to be] certain.

Note: There should be wholehearted sincerity in our thoughts, words deeds, all ultimately dedicated for rebirth in Pure Land.

净土宗十三祖印光大师
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(与陈锡周居士书)
Letter to layperson Chén Xīzhōu

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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