Translations

Those Not Born In Pure Land Will Fall Into Evil Paths 不生西方将堕恶道

其志又谓「根性劣弱,何望生西,但能不堕恶道,此堪自慰 」。

Such [unskilful] ‘aspiration’ [of yours can] also [be] called ‘[thinking that since one’s spiritual] roots [and] nature [are] inferior [and] weak, [with] what hope [for] birth [in the] Western [Pure Land is there? Instead], only [thinking that since one is] able [to] not fall [into] evil paths, [with] this [as] “worthy” [for] consoling oneself’.

[Note 1: Exactly if one thinks one’s spiritual capacity is lowly, all the more should one aspire to reach Pure Land, since the Pure Land path universally covers the three roots (三根普被), of those higher roots (上根), medium roots (中根) and lower roots (下根).

Note 2: If even the path to Pure Land as the Easy Practice Path (易行道) is forsaken, there is no other easier path towards liberation in this lifetime. Those who currently feel unworthy of the Pure Land path should simply study and practise it more sincerely and diligently, to become more confident.

Note 3: To not fall into an evil path, there must at least be retaining of the human rebirth. For this to be possible, there must be observation of the Five Precepts. However, if one observes them well, why would one feel lowly?]

Note 4: If one truly thinks one is spiritually lowly, one should not think one will definitely not fall into an evil path. One should instead think one might fall, which is why there should be even more sincere and diligent learning and practice of the Pure Land path to avoid falling.]

不知不生西方,将来必堕恶道。

Not knowing [that] not born [in the] Western [Pure Land, in] the future, [there will] definitely [be] fall [into] evil paths.

[Note 5: If Pure Land is not reached by the end of this life, even if human rebirth is retained in the next life, due to entering more deeply into this Dharma-Ending Age, it will be even more difficult to practise the Dharma well. This means there will be higher tendency to fall into an evil path in the next life.

Note 6: If one practises the Dharma quite well in this life (i.e. life #1), and retains the human rebirth in the next life (i.e. life #2), the positive karma from life #1 will bear fruit in life #2 in terms of having a more satisfying worldly life. This can lead to sensual indulgence, spiritual complacency and breaking of precepts. Thus, in the life after the next (i.e. life #3), when positive karma from life #1 depletes and negative karma from life #2 ripens, there will be fall into an evil path. One then takes a long time to regain a situation similar to that of life #1.

Note 7: The above repetitive problem in Note 6 is called ‘Three Lifetimes’ Grievance’ (三世冤), and is how we have been rising and falling in the good and evil paths over countless lifetimes, while wrongly imagining we are doing ‘quite alright’ now. If we can so easily progress towards liberation, yet, having passed through countless lifetimes already, the fact that we are still not liberated, what being more already in this Dharma-Ending Age, is adequate reason to pay attention to the Pure Land path, with which there will be liberation by the end of this life if taken. In other words, the fact that we have entered this Dharma-Ending Age means we have been spiritually complacent for too long already.]

此系违背佛教,及与光说,何可云「始终奉行教诲,一心持念弥陀乎」哉?

[As] this [unskilful ‘aspiration’] is contrary to [the] Buddha’s teachings, and with [that Yìn]guāng said, how can [you] say [you are], ‘from [the] beginning to [the] end practising [the] teachings, [to be] wholeheartedly uphold mindfulness [of] Āmítuófó’?

[Note 8: If truly practising according with the teachings of the Buddha and Great Master Yìnguāng, there should be wholehearted mindfulness of Āmítuófó, not for creating positive karma for retaining human rebirth or for gaining a higher rebirth in the higher realms (as a demi-god or god), but with the Three Provisions (三资粮) of Faith (信), Aspiration (愿) and Practice (行), for nothing less than birth in Pure Land. With the great Other-Power (他力) of Āmítuófó connected with one’s limited Self-Power (自力), one will definitely be able to reach his Pure Land.]

净土宗十三祖印光大师
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
《复周智茂居士书》
(Reply Letter [To] Layperson Zhōu Zhìmào)

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

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