Q&A

Should I Worry About Taking A Long Time To Have My Lotus Birth In Pure Land? 需要担心在净土久得莲花化生吗?

Question: Should I be concerned that it might take a ‘long’ time to be born from blossoming lotuses in Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛) Pure Land, thus losing precious time for Dharma practice to benefit oneself and others?

Answer: No matter which grade of birth attained in Pure Land according to one’s circumstances, it always offers the swiftest path to Buddhahood, as it is the most efficient Dharma school for all beings. As taught in the Sūtra On Praises Of The Pure Land With Buddhas’ Protection And Reception《称赞净土佛摄受经》,

‘Be born in the Western Land Of Ultimate Bliss, to receive and use all kinds of meritorious virtues’ adornments of the pure Buddha land, with the Great Vehicle’s Dharma joy. In day and night, during the six periods be close to, for making offerings to Immeasurable Life Buddha, travelling in the ten directions to make offerings to many Buddhas, at many Buddhas’ places hearing the Dharma and receiving predictions, with blessings’ and wisdom’s provisions swiftly attaining perfection, to quickly realise Unsurpassable Equal And Right Bodhi.‘ (生西方极乐世界,受用种种功德庄严清净佛土大乘法乐。日夜六时亲近供养无量寿佛,游历十方供养诸佛,于诸佛所闻法受记,福慧资粮疾得圆满,速证无上正等菩提。)  

Before human birth in the human realm, there is stay in the human womb for about 9 months (or about 280 days). For most grades of births in Pure Land, as listed from [1] to [7] below, blossoming of lotuses range from the immediate to only 49 days, which takes only 17.5% of the time for human birth.

The lotuses are intermediate dwellings for eradicating negative karma (消业障). This can be done most swiftly with continual mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), which was practised to enter the lotus. (The Chinese text below are from the Contemplation Sūtra《观经》.) 

Lotus Blossoms’ Times (Before Conversion) (Grade 1-7)

[1] High Grade’s High Birth (上品上生): Immediate (即)
[2] High Grade’s Middle Birth (上品中生): Overnight (宿)
[3] High Grade’s Low Birth (上品下生): 1 day and 1 night (一日一夜)
[4] Middle Grade’s High Birth (中品上生): Soon (寻): Between 1 day and 1 night to 7 days (一日一夜[至]七日[之间])  
[5] Middle Grade’s Middle Birth (中品中生): 7 days (七日)
[6] Middle Grade’s Low Birth (中品下生): 7 days (七日)
[7] Low Grade’s High Birth (下品上生): 49 days (七七日)

Question: What about the remaining two grades of birth?

Answer: What most worry about are the two lowest grades of birth, as below.

Lotus Blossoms’ Times (Before Conversion) (Grade 8-9)

[8] Low Grade’s Middle Birth (下品中生): 6 kalpas (六劫)
[9] Low Grade’s Low Birth (下品下生): 12 kalpas (十二大劫)

Rather than worrying about being born from these two grades, it is wiser to learn what criteria causes births through them, so as to avoid creating these causes, and to create causes for higher grades of birth instead. It is actually not so ‘easy’ for good and even average persons to only meet the criteria for the two lowest grades of birth, as below. They will have to be habitually very evil, with no worries about consequences (due to lack of faith in the karmic law of cause and effect). In this sense, those who are habitually worried that they might only qualify for the two lowest grades are less likely to be so evil, to truly qualify for them.

[8] Low Grade’s Middle Birth’s (下品中生) Prior Negative Causes

[i] Breaking [various] Precepts [committed to] (毁犯五戒、八戒、及具足戒)
[ii] Stealing the Saṃgha’s objects (偷僧祇物)
[iii] Impurely speaking the Dharma (不净说法)

Thus, if observing at least the Five Precepts (五戒) well (to avoid killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxicants), this will prevent [i] in part, at least ‘not stealing’, which will prevent [ii], and at least not ‘slandering of the Dharma’ (谤法), which will prevent [iii].

[9] Low Grade’s Low Birth’s (下品下生) Prior Negative Causes

[i] Doing unvirtuous karmas (作不善业)
[ii] Five Heinous Transgressions and the Ten Evil Karmas (五逆十恶)
[iii] Complete with all the unvirtuous (具诸不善)

Thus, if observing at least the Five Precepts (五戒) well (to avoid creating unvirtuous karmas), this will prevent [i] in part, at least not creating most of [ii], if any, to be [iii].

Therefore, even if only observing the Five Precepts well, it will not be so easy to create the negative causes above. Those who have created these causes should repent sincerely immediately by committing to the Precepts, and practise mindfulness of Buddha diligently to eradicate the negative karma already created. As taught by the Buddha, ‘Reciting the Buddha’s name (i.e. “Āmítuófó”: 阿弥陀佛) thus, in thought to thought within, eradicating eighty koṭis’ kalpas’ transgressions of births and deaths.’ (称佛名故,于念念中,除八十亿劫生死之罪。) With these practised well now, there will surely be higher grades of birth attained.

Even if only qualifying for the two lowest grades of birth, it is still with great good fortune to be able to reach Pure Land. If not, the following will be experienced.

[8] Low Grade’s Middle Birth’s (下品中生) default effects if not reaching Pure Land: [They] ‘should fall into hell. When their lives almost end, hell’s all fires, at once together arrive.’ (应堕地狱。命欲终时,地狱众火,一时俱至。) Once in hell, there will be suffering for a very long time, much longer than 6 kalpas.

[9] Low Grade’s Low Birth’s (下品下生) default effects if not reaching Pure Land: [They] ‘should fall into evil paths, to pass through many kalpas, with receiving of suffering without end.’ (应堕恶道,经历多劫,受苦无穷。) Once in hell, there will be suffering for a very long time, much longer than 12 kalpas.

Another great consolation is that 6 and 12 kalpas are only 6 and 12 days and nights in Pure Land’s time respectively. As taught by the the Buddha in Flower Adornment Sūtra《华严经》, ‘This Sahā World’s Śākyamuni Buddha’s land’s one kalpa, is of the Land Of Ultimate Bliss, Amitā[bha] Buddha’s land, as one day and one night.’ (此娑婆世界释迦牟尼佛刹一劫,于极乐世界阿弥陀佛刹为一日一夜。) 6 or 12 days and nights of dwelling in Pure Land’s lotuses without suffering is definitely inconceivably shorter than countless kalpas of going through hell. For the sake of completion, below tabulates the time conversion of all nine grades of birth.

Lotus Blossoms’ Time Conversion (as in chart above)

[1] High Grade’s High Birth (上品上生): Immediate (即) here ≡ Immediate (即) there
[2] High Grade’s Middle Birth (上品中生): Overnight (宿) here ≡ 0.000000001467864 of 1 minute (秒) there
[3] High Grade’s Low Birth (上品下生): 1 day and 1 night (一日一夜) here ≡ 0.000000002935728 of a minute (秒) there
[4] Middle Grade’s High Birth (中品上生): Soon (寻): Between 1 day and 1 night to 7 days (一日一夜[至]七日[之间]) here ≡ Between 0.000000002935728 and 0.000000020550384 of 1 minute (秒) there
[5] Middle Grade’s Middle Birth (中品中生): 7 days (七日) here ≡ 0.000000020550384 of 1 minute (秒) there
[6] Middle Grade’s Low Birth (中品下生): 7 days (七日) here ≡ 0.000000020550384 of 1 minute (秒) there
[7] Low Grade’s High Birth (下品上生): 49 days (七七日) here ≡ 0.000003452464512 of 1 minute (秒) there
[8] Low Grade’s Middle Birth (下品中生): 6 kalpas (六劫) here ≡ 6 days and 6 nights (六日六夜) there
[9] Low Grade’s Low Birth (下品下生): 12 kalpas (十二大劫) here ≡ 12 days and 12 nights (十二日十二夜) there

Ranging only between immediate to near immediate blossoming, and to 12 days and nights in experience there, it is no wonder that spiritual progress in Pure Land is the swiftest possible. 

相关经典
Related Sūtras:

《观经》
Contemplation Sūtra
purelanders.com/guanjing

《称赞净土佛摄受经》
Sūtra On Praises Of The Pure Land With Buddhas’ Protection And Reception
purelanders.com/tang

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