Question: How do I know if the Buddha (or Bodhisattva) I am mindful of when seen is real; and not a karmic creditor?
Answer: Although their manifestations will not be exactly as usually envisioned or imagined, but more magnificent, as they can read our minds, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will not appear in confusing forms, as they want us to recognise them, so as to be assured. If they are exactly as ‘thought’, we will wonder if we are hallucinating or just thinking about them. But if they are too different, we will not relate to them. Thus is there some extra majesty, to counter these extreme possibilities.
If there is continual sincere mindfulness of the name of Āmítuófó, the one who appears and remains in the midst of ongoing practice will be Āmítuófó, as this corresponds with the cause of mindfulness of Buddha (念佛) leading to the effect of meeting the Buddha (见佛). All non-Āmítuófó forms (e.g. manifested by stray thoughts and/or karmic creditors, including forms of other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, friends and relatives) will depart, unable to trick, as there will be the mindful protection of Āmítuófó and all other Buddhas. Sincere practice can also inspire karmic creditors to likewise practise.
However, if one is not practising mindfulness of Āmítuófó, yet he appears, the seen might not be him, as this does not tally with cause and effect. To know if it is him, there should be mindfulness of his name immediately. Again, all non-Āmítuófó forms (e.g. manifested by stray thoughts and/or karmic creditors) will depart, unable to trick, as there will be the protection of Āmítuófó. No being will be able to impersonate Āmítuófó when sincerely mindful of him. To remain assured, continue having mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name.
Also, there should not be pining to see Āmítuófó when it is not a must, as this is a form of greed. Those not mindful might end up practising mindfulness motivated by greed, that is mistaken as sincerity. Faith (in Āmítuófó) and Aspiration (to reach his Pure Land) are the provisions to have during Practice; not doubt and greed, as their opposites. Any ‘manifestations’ seen then are not real, likelier to be karmic creditors.
There should be continual practice in the moment, upon sight of Buddha, and even thereafter, to ensure there is no growth in complacency or arrogance, due to attachment to having seen the Buddha. Manifestations of Buddha are meant to inspire our Faith, and to encourage ongoing practice; not to halt our practice. A reason why the Buddha does not manifest as frequently as we tend to wish is exactly to ensure we do not become complacent.
As even the Pure Land Tradition’s 1st Patriarch Great Master Huìyuǎn (净土宗初祖慧远大师) saw Āmítuófó ‘only’ thrice before reaching Pure Land, we should not crave to easily see Āmítuófó, who will not appear carelessly, lest it leads to the ‘side-effects’ above. Thus, instead of focusing on the effect of seeing the Buddha, we should just focus on sincere mindfulness, which is creating of the right cause to see the Buddha later, in good time.
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