As for cultivating practice [to reach] Pure Land, have [the] principle of [being] certain [and] without doubt.
[Note 1: This is very important as to have definite Faith is to adequately accumulate the very first of the Three Provisions (三资粮), of Faith (信), Aspiration (愿) and Practice (行) for reaching Pure Land. When there are doubts, there should be more sincere learning and practice, with swift clarification through the Buddha’s words and the Patriarchs’ further explanations. When teachers’ advice is asked for, only advice with proper references to the Buddha and Patriarchs should be heeded.]
Why must [there be] asking [about the] efficacious experiences of other people?
[Note 2: Testimonies of good and successful practice are only valid if they are aligned with the principles taught by the Buddha and the Patriarchs. In this sense, they are secondary to the principles; never preceding them in priority. Only testimonies referred to in this way can be inspiring examples to increase our Faith.]
Even if people throughout the world, [are] all without efficacious experiences, [one] likewise [should] not give rise [to] one thought [of the] doubtful mind.
[Note 3: Even if there are no contemporary people with efficacious experiences, there are ancient ones. Even if there are no ancient ones, the Buddha’s explanations and assurances in the sūtras should suffice in giving us Faith. Of course, there are already countless ancient and contemporary people with efficacious experiences.]
[This is] with [the] Buddha’s [and] Patriarchs’ truthful words, [that] can [be] depended [on] thus.
[Note 4: If there is uncertainty about the meaning of Patriarchs’ words as understood, they should be checked with the Buddha’s words as the primary source of reference.]
If asking [about] other people’s efficacious experiences, [this] then is Faith [in the] Buddha’s words yet [to be] utmost, yet with people’s words as [being] certain.
[Note 5: This is to be inverted, as there should be accumulating of Faith in the Buddha’s words to the utmost first, before seeing if others’ words are aligned to them. If there is listening to many of others’ words without paying attention to the Buddha’s words first, there might be confusion to no end, while always missing the truth.]
[This] then is [with the] stealing mind [deludedly craving for some other ‘better’ means], then not helping [the] matter [of reaching Pure Land].
[Note 6: This is to, with confusion and greed, look for what does not exists, a better and easier method. This is not only not helpful, it is harmful as one’s right focus will be lost.]
Heroic men [and women], absolutely [must] not go so far, [as to] renounce [the] Buddha’s words, and choose [to have] faith [in] people’s words.
[Note 7: As true disciples of the Buddha, we should have unshakeable Faith in the Buddha’s truthful words, instead of the words of unenlightened ordinary people.]
[With] oneself’s mind within without [a] master, focusing [on the] desire [to be] with people [with] efficacious experiences, [with their] words as [one’s] future’s guiding teacher, how [is this] not pitiful?
[Note 8: We should have the Buddha in our mind as our fundamental teacher. Being able to do so is fortunate enough. What more, there are the 13 Pure Land Patriarchs’ further explanatory teachings for support. All these is already adequate.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(First Reply Letter [To A] Certain Yǒngjiā Layperson)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an