[It has been] observed [that the] circumstances met [by] respected [Madam] Cài, can [be] called [the] extreme of bitter dishes [i.e. suffering].
[Note 1: As the daughter-in-law of the letter’s recipient, she was recently bereaved of her husband and child.]
However, suffering [and] joy, disasters [and] blessings, [are] originally without [being] certain.
[Note 2: This is so as being conditioned to change without any fixed nature, suffering does not always lead to more suffering, joy does not always lead to more joy, disasters do not always lead to more disasters, and blessings do not always lead to more blessings.]
Those good [at] using [their] minds, then can [be] with suffering as joy, with disasters as blessings.
[Note 3: Those skilful can use suffering to motivate practice towards lasting joy, and use disasters to motivate cultivation of lasting blessings. Although the ways of this world are impermanent, with practice for birth in Pure Land, the joy and blessings there are permanent.]
Those not good [at] using [their] minds, certainly [will have] many, due [to] joy attain suffering, due [to] blessings attain disasters.
[Note 4: Those unskilful will exhaust their joy from blessings, to experience suffering from disasters, due to complacence about the limits of their good karma, not mindful of how much evil karma can manifest next.]
[Madam Cài] Yǔqīng, since knowing [that the] world’s forms [are] impermanent, urgently desired [to] take refuge [in the] Triple Gem, with cultivating [and] upholding [of] pure karma [for birth in Pure Land], and seeking [to] rely [upon the] Buddha’s power [of] loving-kindness [to be] liberated [from the cycle of] birth [and] death.
[Note 5: Deaths and impending death should always be seen as grave reminders of our lives being limited, thus with the urgency to start and progress our spiritual lives in time, before our short worldly lives end – again.]
Then [are] those [with] this said of suffering, [who] thus completely accomplish their great good roots of liberation [from the cycle of] birth [and] death.
[Note 6: The ultimate thought transformation is to transform great worldly suffering to be motivation for cultivating great spiritual bliss for the sake of one and all.]
Otherwise, [even if] children [and] grandchildren fill [the] hall, [and the] family [is] harmonious, only knowing [this] happiness before [the] eyes, who [can] calculate [the] realms [all will] return [to] after death?
[Note 7: Not regarding this seriously is why we will continue to bob up and down in the sea of suffering within the cycle of birth and death.]
Third Reply Letter [To] Layperson Gōng Zōngyuán
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an