With kindness [in] human relationships, [to the] utmost fulfilling [one’s] part [responsibly] and so on, and [with] Faith [and] Aspiration [being] mindful [of] Buddha and so on, self-encouraging [and] encouraging others, these meritorious virtues [and] benefits, [are] immeasurable [and] boundless.
[Note 1: Good Buddhist practice begins with doing one’s worldly duties ethically and well, followed by sincere and diligent personal spiritual learning and practice, for reaching Pure Land, and encouraging others to have their own similar spiritual practice. Together, the merits of doing so are great, as both one’s worldly and spiritual parts in life are being fulfilled.]
[You] must not [have] deluded thoughts [about] attaining [the] path [and] attaining supernormal [powers].
[Note 2: To think about attaining the path (i.e. self-enlightenment) in this lifetime is considered deluded as this is already the Dharma-Ending Age, when it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, according to many teachers. What should be done instead, is to ensure we will reach where enlightenment is guaranteed in the next life – in Pure Land.
Note 3: To look forward to supernormal powers instead of focusing on cultivating the power of compassion and wisdom is to miss the key objectives of the Dharma – for learning and practising towards liberation for one and all. Constant craving for enlightenment and/or supernormal powers which are out of reach in this life can become worldly greed, disguised as pure spiritual motivation. If supernormal powers are attained with worldly greed, that are deludedly mistaken as a ‘sign’ of being enlightened or close to enlightenment, this will lead to arrogance and creating of great negative karma with the breaking of precepts. When Pure Land is reached, all supernormal powers will be naturally attained, as empowered by Āmítuófó, for facilitating Dharma practice and aiding of other beings purely.
Note 4: The universal basis of Dharma practice are the Precepts as the first step of the Threefold Learning (of precepts, concentration and wisdom). If ethics are weak and one stumbles upon supernormal powers, they can magnify the Three Poisons (of greed, hatred and delusion) in activity instead, thus creating much negative karma. The classic cautionary case of having supernormal powers with weak ethics is Devadatta. The classic cautionary case of having great supernormal powers being disempowered by karma, even as an Arhat is Maudgalyāyana. These cases remind us that having such powers neither mean spiritual greatness nor invincibility.]
Only [with] wholehearted mindfulness [of] Buddha, again with this encouraging others, then although not attaining [the] path, yet [the first] can [be] superior [to] attaining [the] path. With those attained benefits of rebirth [in Pure Land], compared [with that of] attaining [the] path, [the first are] even greater.
[Note 5: If oneself and others practise well to reach Pure Land, even if not self-enlightened (with Arhathood) in this lifetime, there will be complete enlightenment (of Bodhisattvahood and Buddhahood) attained through Pure Land, with complete abilities to guide all to the same goals.]
Moreover, [if] blindly cultivating [and] rashly practising, many will probably come [in] contact [with inner and/or outer] demon[s and] go mad.
[Note 6: To blindly cultivate is to be deluded. To rashly practise is to be greedy. With such deluded greed, many will easily be overpowered by both inner demons in terms of personal Three Poisons, and outer demons in terms of those with much of the Three Poisons. Confusing themselves and being confused by others, this is how they can be driven crazy, to develop mental illnesses that are difficult to cure.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(Third [Of] Four Reply Letters [To] Layperson Yáng Shùzhī)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an