How To Transform & Purify Evil Thoughts When Alive & Dying? 存亡者如何转恶念为净念?

Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Chapter Seventh: Benefits [For The] Living [And] Deceased (Excerpt)


At that time, Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Mahāsattva to [the] Buddha said, ‘World-Honoured [One], I see [that of] these Jambudvīpa sentient beings, [with their] raising [of] minds [and] moving [of] thoughts, none are not [with] transgressions.

Note 1: Beings in this world, especially in this Dharma-Ending Age, are with heavy and evil habitual thoughts, that arise from the Three Poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. This is so even subtly, behind apparent ‘good’ intentions, that are still not completely good or pure, with some latent poisons. With these corrupted or mixed thoughts, speech and actions that result are defiled accordingly. Thus, there must be more sincere, deliberate and diligent practice of mindfulness of Buddha’s name to reverse such evil habits.


[If] departed [from them to] obtain good benefits, many retrogress [from their] initial resolve.

Note 2: Even when there are very brief respites from transgressive thoughts, to think, say and do what is good instead, to attain blessings, many eventually backslide from their good intentions. Again, this is due to the strength of past evil habits yet to be broken free from. There should be more regular practice of mindfulness of Buddha then, to create this stronger pure habit, to substitute and transform evil thoughts.


If [they] encounter evil conditions, thought after thought, [they will] increase.

Note 3: The way to reduce encounter with external evil conditions is to avoid places where they are prevalent. Also, with more sincere practice of mindfulness of Buddha, there will be more blessings, which can prevent us from karmically encountering these conditions unwittingly. Increasing practice of mindfulness of Buddha will also reduce the arising of internal evil conditions in terms of the Three Poisons, to multiply good and pure thoughts instead.


These [and] other kinds [of] people, like treading [the] mud smeared, [with] burdens of heavy rocks, gradually [become] trapped [and] gradually [become] heavier, [with each] footstep [sinking] deeper.

Note 4: Those unaware of any way to escape from habitual evil in thought, word and deed will eventually sink deeper into the quicksand of the Three Poisons. Some might be aware of their plight and struggle to break free for a while, with some but still inadequate practice. There is thus cyclical sinking and breaking free, yet not totally. As such is the nature of most beings reborn in this defiled land, there should be concerted efforts to reach Pure Land, through cultivation of the stronger pure habit above, so that evil habits will not keep winning.


If attaining encounter [of a] friend, [who] for [them] together reduce [the] burden, or totally for [them bear the] burden, this friend, having great strength thus, responds [with] mutual support [to] assist, [and] encourages [to] enable [their] feet [to be] firm.

Note 5: These good-knowing advisors are spiritual friends, best exemplified by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, including Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) and Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva. Sincere mindfulness of their names connects us to their Other-power (他力) for support, for momentary rescue in this life during emergencies, thus lessening our karmic burdens, and for thorough rescue at the end of this life, by receiving and guiding us to Pure Land, where there is freedom from remaining burdens.


If [having] reached flat ground, [they] must reflect [on these] evil roads, [to] not again experience [them].

Note 6: When we (re)gain physical and spiritual well-being safely, even if just for a while, we should immediately reflect on how we unmindfully lost our way earlier, with potentially more disastrous effects. If not in Pure Land yet, we should remember that it is by reaching Pure Land, that we will truly never experience any slipping into dangerous evil paths again. Knowing so, we should guide others to take the Pure Land path too, to also learn and practise appropriately.


World-Honoured [One], sentient beings [with] habitual evil, from [the] extremely minute [evil] within, soon afterwards reach [the] immeasurable. All these sentient beings have such habits.

Note 7: Once again, the simplest yet most effective way to counter habitual evil, that starts at the level of thought subtly, is to practise mindfulness of Buddha as much as possible – both once an evil thought has arisen, as a remedial practice, and even before an evil thought has arisen, as a preventive practice. As the Buddha’s name is pure and powerful, all evil thoughts can be subdued by it. Not doing so, evil thoughts can easily escalate and multiply, to be harder and harder to control – till they manifest as evil speech and actions, that can even lead to immeasurable suffering when heavy negative karma bears fruit.


When approaching life’s end, [their] Fathers, Mothers [and] family members, should for [them] establish blessings, as provisions [for the] road ahead, perhaps hanging [Dharma] banners [and] parasols, and lighting oil lamps, perhaps in turn reading [the] honoured sūtras, perhaps making offerings [before] Buddhas’ images and all noble [ones’] images, and even reciting Buddhas’, Bodhisattvas’, and Pratyekabuddhas’ names, [with] each [and every] one name, passing through [the] ear root [of the] person approaching [the] end [of life], perhaps [with] listening at [the] fundamental consciousness.

Note 8: This is the practice of doing good in the name of the Triple Gem (of the Buddhas, Dharma and Saṅgha) on behalf of the dying, so as create meritorious virtues (merits) for them, to lessen their suffering by eradicating their negative karma, and to facilitate more peaceful passing for a better rebirth. If the listed is too challenging to all do, there should at least be offering of guidance on the sincere practice of mindfulness of Buddha to reach Pure Land, followed by focused support-chanting with that one Buddha’s name, until the person departs, extending the chanting thereafter for as long as feasible. If the person is unable to chant along aloud, as long as there is sincere listening, this is also a form of mindfulness. This is ‘simple’ yet crucial, as the thought the person takes rebirth with determines the destination born in.


All these sentient beings’ created evil karma, [if with] their responding fruits, [will] definitely [lead to] fall [into] evil realms, [with the] conditions [of] these family members for [these] persons approaching [the] end [of life], cultivating these holy causes, such many transgressions, [will] all [be] eradicated.

Note 9: While these beings might had created much negative karma, that deserves fall into the lower realms, they also have enough positive karma and merits, as expressed by those who aid them as above. Of course, the person should personally have sincere repentance too, to eradicate negative karma. The only way to know if someone deserves help is to help the person. If the person truly does not deserve any help, no help will be receivable.


If able [to], even more, after death of [the] body, [for] seven seven days within, widely create much good, [this] can enable all these sentient beings [to] forever depart [from the] evil realms, [to] attain birth [as] human [or] heavenly [beings, to] receive wonderful bliss, [with] present family members, [having] immeasurable benefits.

Note 10: If the above various practices are done adequately, before death and after, for 49 days (during which the consciousness takes rebirth), but without the Three Provisions (of Faith, Aspiration and Practice) to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, this by default will avoid falling into the lower realms, to attain a human or heavenly rebirth instead. However, these are not as ideal as reaching of Pure Land, as swiftest progress to Buddhahood without retrogression is guaranteed there, while unenlightened rebirths in higher realms does not assure of Buddhahood. While the heavenly realm might be relatively more blissful than the human realm, Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is the Land Of Ultimate Bliss (极乐世界). Just there will be immeasurable benefits for those who have reached Pure Land, there will be so for those who guide others to reach it.

Namo Amituofo : Translation & notes by Shen Shi’an

Related Articles:

Kṣitigarbha Sūtra’s Niànfó Teachings

What Are Benefits Of Hearing Buddha’s Name Sincerely?

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