Are Some ‘Condemned’ To Be Unable To Learn Buddhism?
Question: If one does not wish to learn the Buddha’s Dharma teachings (佛法), is this due to lack of positive karma or merits? Is there a ‘remedy’?
Answer: This is due to lack of both merits and wisdom (福慧), which needed perfection for Buddhahood. However, the point is that all can, to some extent now, increase their merits by doing good to help others, even if with secular ways not inspired by Buddhism – to be increasingly more karmically deserving of the Buddha’s precious teachings… in good time, even if in a future life.
These teachings will guide them to increase in wisdom, to be even more receptive of the Dharma, for further learning and practice, which also increases merits. With such increase in merits and wisdom, they will also eventually karmically encounter those who are able to skilfully encourage them to progress spiritually. Merits can also be dedicated to one another to offer support. As such, no one is condemned to be unable to benefit from the Dharma forever.
Do The Pure Land Teachings Require Much Merits To Learn?
The above also explains why those who embrace the Pure Land (净土) teachings, and are enthusiastic in its practice to be reborn in Pure Land to meet the most skilful teachers, such as Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) and many representative great Bodhisattvas (菩萨) like Avalokiteśvara (观世音), Mañjuśrī (文殊), Kṣitigarbha (地藏), Samantabhadra (普贤) and Maitreya (弥勒) are considered very meritorious and wise.
As taught below by Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛), somehow, Pure Land practitioners had created enough merits in many past lives to encounter and learn the most precious Pure Land teachings in this life, and are wise enough to practise them accordingly, to be upon this swiftest path to Buddhahood. Pure Land enables most efficient accumulation of merits and wisdom too. Thus, all should sincerely learn to practise the Pure Land teachings now.
《无量寿经》Immeasurable Life Sūtra (Excerpt 1):
若人无善心，If a person is without a good heart,
不得闻此经，one will not attain hearing of this sūtra.
清净有戒者，Those pure and with precepts,
乃获闻正法。then obtain hearing of this right Dharma.
[Note 1: Without good intentions that created much merits, along with having observed the precepts well in many past lives and this present life, the Pure Land teachings cannot be truly learnt. Thus, those who have worked their way to encounter the Pure Land teachings now should treasure this precious affinity, by learning and practising them well. This also means all should observe precepts well and create merits, so as to truly learn the Pure Land teachings.]
曾更见世尊，Before, having seen even more World-Honoured Ones,
则能信此事，thus are they able to believe these matters,
谦敬闻奉行，to humbly and respectfully listen and practise,
踊跃大欢喜。with enthusiasm and great rejoice.
[Note 2: Those who have met many Buddhas in their past lives can easily have faith in the otherwise difficult-to-believe (难信) Pure Land teachings, to truly receive them. Through reaching of Pure Land, even more Buddhas can be met, to most easily continue and perfect learning and practice of the Dharma. This also means all should learn and practise the Pure Land teachings humbly, respectfully, enthusiastically and joyfully to meet many Buddhas.]
骄慢弊懈怠，Those arrogant, evil and lazy,
难以信此法，are difficult to have faith in this Dharma.
宿世见诸佛，Those in past lives having seen many Buddhas,
乐听如是教。joyfully hear this teaching thus.
[Note 3: All who are prideful, wicked and lax already find it hard to believe in the Buddha’s general teachings, what more the difficult-to-believe Pure Land teachings. This also means all should be humble, good and diligent, so as to truly learn the Pure Land teachings.]
《无量寿经》Immeasurable Life Sūtra (Excerpt 2):
The Buddha told Maitreya, ‘Of those who attain hearing of that Buddha’s name [i.e. Āmítuófó], with rejoice and enthusiasm, even if for one thought, it should be known that these persons, because of this, will attain great benefits, which are thus complete with unsurpassable meritorious virtues.
[Note 4: Even momentary enthusiastic rejoice in the essence of the Pure Land teachings when hearing Buddha’s name is full of benefits and meritorious virtues (merits) as it is the indestructible vajra karmic seed being planted, that will lead to Buddhahood eventually.]
Therefore Maitreya, if there is a great fire, that fully fills the three-thousand great-thousand world system, [one] should cross this, to hear this sūtra’s Dharma, with rejoice and faithful joy, receive, uphold, study and recite such said cultivation for practice.
[Note 5: Even if the whole galaxy is ablaze, it should be braved for learning and practising the Pure Land teachings. Even taking the risk of losing one’s own life is worth it as in the event that one perishes in the quest for them, it is just one life lost, while there will still be many more rebirths anyway – that one remains trapped within. In the event that they are successfully learnt and practised, one will be liberated from all such rebirths.]
Why is this so? There are many Bodhisattvas, who desire to hear this sūtra, yet are not able to attain it. If there are sentient beings, who hear this sūtra, of the unsurpassable path, they will, to the end not retrogress.
[Note 6: Therefore, it requires much merits to encounter the Pure Land teachings, to step onto the one-way expressway to Buddhahood. Thus, the fastest way to most efficiently benefit oneself and others is by reaching Pure Land, and by guiding others to reach it too.]
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
The Eight Great Bodhisattvas’ Connections With Amitābha Buddha
Where To Meet Amitābha Buddha & Maitreya Bodhisattva Together