Below is the sixth of the last seven questions and answers in the Rebirth Treatise’s Commentary’s Lower Scroll, as titled for easier reference.]
How To Understand Heavier Karma Leading First?
Question: [The Ten Good] Paths’ Karmas Sūtra [i.e.《十善道业经》] says, ‘Karma’s path [is] like [a] balance, [with] that heavier first leading.’
Like [the] Sūtra [On] Contemplation [Of] Immeasurable Life [Buddha] says, ‘[If there] are persons [who] have created [the] Five Heinous [Transgressions and the] Ten Evil [Karmas], complete [with] all [that is] not good, [who] should fall [into the] evil paths, passing through many kalpas, receiving immeasurable suffering, when approaching life’s end, [if] meeting good-knowing friends, [who] teach reciting [of] “Námó [i.e. Homage to and refuge for life in] Immeasurable Life Buddha” [i.e. Āmítuófó], thus [with a] sincere mind, enabling [its] sound [to] not [be] interrupted, completing ten thoughts’, [they will] easily attain rebirth [in the] Pure Land [Of] Peace [And] Bliss, immediately enter [the] Great Vehicle’s Right Definite Assembly, [with] Ultimate Non-retrogression, with [the] three paths’ all suffering forever separated.
[Of the] meaning of first leading, [of this], how [is this] of reason? Also, since past kalpas, [with] many readily created practices [of the] Dharma having outflows, fastened [to] belong [to the] three realms [of desire, form and formlessness], however with ten thoughts mindful [of] Āmítuófó, easily exiting [the] three realms, [with the] meaning of fastened karma, how [can there], again, [be] desire [to do so]?
Answer: You say [that those with the] Five Heinous [Transgressions and] Ten Evil [Karmas’] fastened karma [and] others as heavy, with lower low grade’s persons’ ten thoughts as light, [who] should by transgressions that lead, first fall [into] hell, [as] those fastened in [the] three realms. Now, [you] should with [this] meaning consider.
[The] meaning of light [and] heavy, [is determined by that] ‘at mind’, ‘at condition’ [and] ‘at certainty’, not ‘at duration’ [being] long [or] short, much [or] little.
What [is] that called ‘at mind’? Those persons [who] created transgressions self-relied [upon] false [and] inverted views rising, [while] those [with the] ten thoughts rely [upon] good-knowing friends’ skilful comforting, [with] hearing [of] true nature’s Dharma arising. [With] one true [and] one false, how can [they] be compared?
For example, [a] thousand year [old] dark room, if [with] light briefly reaching, immediately [and] easily [becomes] bright [and] clear. How can darkness say [that as it was] in [the] room [for a] thousand years, then not depart? [This] is named ‘at mind’.
What [is] called ‘at condition’? That person [who] created transgressions self-relied [upon] false thoughts’ mind, [and] relied [upon] afflictions [and] many false karmic results born arising, [while] those [with the] ten thoughts rely [upon the] unsurpassable faithful mind, [and] rely [upon] Amitā Thus Come [One’s] skilful, true, pure, immeasurably meritorious [and] virtuous name arising.
For example, [there] is [a] person by [a] poisonous arrow that [was] shot, [that] cut off tendons [and] broke bones. Hearing [the] poison-eradicating medicinal drum, immediately [is the] arrow extracted [and the] poison eradicated.
([The] Śūraṅgama Sūtra says, ‘For example, [there] is medicine, named [as able to] eradicate [poison]. If when battling, with [it] used for smearing [on a medicinal] drum, those hearing [the] drum’s sound, [will have] arrows extracted [and] poisons eradicated. Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas [are] likewise thus, abiding [in] Śūraṅgama Samādhi, [with] those hearing that name, [having] arrow of three poisons naturally pulled out.’)
How can [it be] suitable [to] say that [as the] arrow [is] deep [and the] poison [is] severe, [with] hearing [of the] drum’s sound, [it is] not [be] able [to] pull [out the] arrow [and] eradicate [the] poison? [This] is named ‘at condition’.
What [is] called ‘at certainty’? That person [who] created transgressions, relied [upon] having after-thoughts’, [and] having interrupted thoughts’ mind arising, [while] those [with] these ten thoughts rely [upon being] without after-thoughts, [and] without interrupted thoughts arising, [which] is named [as ‘at] certainty’.
Considering [these] three meanings, those [with the] ten thoughts heavier, [have] that heavier first leading, [thus] able [to] exit [the] Three Existences [of desire, form and formlessness, which is the] two sūtras’ one meaning.
(Immeasurable Life Sūtra’s Upadeśa’s Verses [On] Aspiration [For] Birth: Upper Scroll)
Written [by] Vasubandhu Bodhisattva
Translation [by] Bodhiruci
Commentary [by] Great Master Tánluán
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
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Immeasurable Life Sūtra’s Upadeśa