When [practising] mindfulness [of] Buddha, [you] must often have [the] thought [that you] will die, [and] will fall [into] hell.
[Note 1: We are all certainly advancing towards death, although uncertain of when it will arrive – which might be the very next moment. Remembering this helps to cultivate a greater sense of urgency, to practise more diligently and regularly. Unless with extremely negative karma ripening upon death, we are not definitely falling into hell after death. However, thinking that this might be so in the worst-case scenario helps to cultivate a greater sense of the importance, of having more sincere mindfulness of Buddha. This helps as only mindfulness of Buddha when dying can prevent the ripening of otherwise hellish karma.]
Then, [if] not sincere [and] earnest, [you will] also naturally [become] sincere [and] earnest. [If] not corresponding [with the Buddha, you will] also naturally correspond [with the Buddha].
[Note 2: The above thinking helps to motivate us to have greater sincerity when practising mindfulness of Buddha, thus leading to connection to the Buddha with response.]
With [the] mind terrified [of] suffering [thus] mindful [of] Buddha, this is [for] departing [from] suffering, [the] foremost wonderful method.
[Note 3: This is not to focus on mindfulness of fear itself. It is to, due to fear of suffering, focus better on mindfulness of Buddha instead, all the more sincerely. (When there is truly wholehearted mindfulness of Buddha, there will be no room in the mind for mindfulness of fear or suffering.) Doing so eradicates suffering with maximum possible speed, as swiftly as we are sincerely mindful of Buddha. This works as mindfulness of Buddha creates immense blessings and meritorious virtues, that can dilute much negative karma, which is what gives rise to suffering, including from fear.]
[Note 4: The more negative karma we have, the more should we practise sincerely. However, if there is much craving for quick results, we will not be very sincere, thus not having significant results quickly. Similar to the above, to motivate us to have greater sincerity when practising mindfulness of Buddha, we should think we do indeed have much extremely negative karma. If our karma is not very negative, we will not still be trapped in rebirth in this Dharma-Ending Age.]
[It is] also, [when] according [with] conditions, [for] eradicating [negative] karma, [the] foremost wonderful method.
[Note 5: Whenever there is time, there can also be mindfulness of Buddha to eradicate negative karma, as much as possible. This is the most excellent method as it is easy to practise, able be done at any time and place without any equipment, while also having maximum efficacy. As above, this works as mindfulness of Buddha creates immense blessings and meritorious virtues.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(Sixth Reply [Letter To A] Certain Yǒngjiā Layperson)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an