Also asking: [In] ancient [times, there] were those [who] gave rose [to the] aspiration [to, in their] future lives, [be] born [to] encounter [the] Middle Land (中国), [where the Right Dharma (正法) is centrally available, to] always meet wise teachers, [with] right faith leave home, [to be] Śrāmaṇeras [to] enter [the] path. [On] this, again, why [is this so]?
Answer: In [the] past [Dharma-]Semblance [Age (像法时期) (which is 500th to 1000th years after the Buddha’s Parinirvāṇa (般涅槃), when the] teachings [were] then [still] prosperous, people’s [spiritual] roots [were] still sharp, [and] wise teachers [were] easily attained, [with] entering [of the] path not difficult. Even if [in the] present life yet [to be] wise, [this in a] future life can [be] hoped [for then], thus giving rise [to] this aspiration.
Now then, [is] not so, [with the] Buddha’s teachings more and more weak, [with] people’s [spiritual] roots more and more dull, [with those] evil many [and those] right few, [and with] regression easy [and] advancement difficult. Inside [with] obstacles [and] outside [with] demons, no person [is] not complete [with them]. Wise teachers [and] good[-knowing] friends, [are] rare [in this] world [and] difficult [to] encounter.
Only seen [are those who have] left home filling [the] land, [but] yet [to] hear [of are] which persons [have] attained [the] path. [In] continuous kalpas yet [to] accomplish [the path, for those] later born, how can [they] reach [it here]?
[With] Honourable [Master] Qīng [and] Old [Master] Zhé, [the] failures [of these] past cases [are] obvious.
[Note On Master Qīng: Honourable Master Qīng (青公) was Cǎotáng Qīng Chán Master (草堂青禅师), a Great Master in the Sòng Dynasty (宋朝), who was reborn in a Zēng (曾) family, as Duke Lǔ’s (鲁公) son. The Duke’s wife was the master’s major benefactor, who often offered alms food to him at their house. Grateful to her, he once told her that he will be reborn as her son to repay her kindness. The Duke was in his study some time later, when he suddenly saw the master enter the room where his wife was. Just when he thought of following to see what was happening, there was news that she had just given birth to a son.
When he sent someone to the monastery to check, there was news that the Master had just departed. Thus was it known that the child is the Master reborn. The child grew up to be very intelligent, becoming a palace graduate (进士), later becoming Duke Zēnglǔ (曾鲁公).
Even though once a Great Master, and with much blessed rewards that surpass many, he was however just an official, who did not have much time to learn and practise the Dharma. Thus, his next life would not be as ‘fortunate’ as his present life, especially if he also created evil karma with forgetting of the Dharma. If he aspired and practised to reach Pure Land directly, such problems would not arise. This is the first cautionary case stated.]
[Note On Master Zhé: In the same dynasty was Zhēnrú Zhé Chán Master (真如喆禅), the Abbot of a large monastery in the capital. At night, he would rest without lying down. When he departed, he was seated upright, without sickness, and with advanced knowing of the time of his departure. Even his paper outer garments (纸袄) produced many relics upon cremation. (From the below, it can be known that having relics does not prove there is liberation.) He was reborn in a family with very great wealth and honour, becoming Emperor Sòng Qīnzōng (宋钦宗). However, he received much suffering when he was held hostage by the Jīn Kingdom (金国) and died in captivity.
Even though once a Great Master, with much blessed rewards that surpass many, even though he became an emperor, his conditions did not allow him much freedom to learn and practise the Dharma. Thus, his next life would not be as ‘fortunate’ as his present life, especially if he also created evil karma with forgetting of the Dharma. If he aspired and practised to reach Pure Land directly, such problems would not arise. This is the second cautionary case stated.]
[The] Great Collection [Sūtra’s] prediction can [be] as true proof. [(The) Great Collection (Sūtra): ‘(In the) later five hundred years within, (and beyond in the Dharma-Ending Age [末法时期] now), (when) ten million (of) ten million people cultivate practices, (it is) without having one person (who) attains (the) path. Only relying (on the) Dharma Door (Of) Mindfulness (Of) Buddha, attains deliverance (from the cycle of) birth (and) death.’]
Thus, [there] are [those who do] not know [these] benefits [and] harms, [who] rashly imitate ancient people, [by] still giving rise [to] this aspiration. [What a great] mistake!
Moreover, speaking [of the] Middle Land, then [with] which [is] like [the Pure Land Of] Peaceful Nurturing? Speaking [of] wise teachers, then [with] which [is] more [so than] Amitābha [Buddha]? Speaking [of] leaving home, then [with] which [way], if [not by] horizontally transcending [the] three realms? Speaking [of] entering [the] path, then [with] which [way], if [not with lotus] flowers blossoming, [to] see [the] Buddha, [and] awaken [to] Non-Birth’s Forbearance?
[Of those] not with this aspiration, yet aspiring [for this] Sahā [World], I believe these persons [are] truly with foolish attachment.
Commentary [On] ‘Verses [For] Giving Rise [To] Aspiration [For Birth In The] Western [Pure Land]’
云栖莲池大师作 (净土宗八祖莲池大师 )
Written [by] Yúnqī [Monastery’s] Great Master Liánchí
(Pure Land Tradition’s 8th Patriarch Great Master Liánchí)
Commentary [by] Junior Student Śrāmaṇera Shíxián
(Pure Land Tradition’s 11th Patriarch Great Master Xǐng’ān)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Wholeheartedly Aspire For Birth In Pure Land Only
Why Not Seek Human Or Heavenly Rewards?
Verses On Third Lifetime’s Sorrow
Verses For Giving Rise To Aspiration For Birth In The Western Pure Land