[With] Cultivated Virtues Revealing Nature’s Virtues, Humans Definitely Can Conquer Destiny
[The] Flower Adornment [i.e. Avataṃsaka] Sūtra says, ‘All sentient beings, [are] all complete [with] Thus Come [Ones’] wisdom [and] virtues’ forms, only because [of] false thoughts [and] attachment, not able [to] realise [and] attain [them].’
[Note 1: In other words, ‘sentient beings all have Buddha-nature’ (众生皆有佛性), the nature of the Buddhas, the potential to realise Buddhahood (佛果).]
[It should be] known [that] this wisdom [and] virtues’ forms, [are] thus [with] those [of] sentient beings [and] Buddhas [the] same, then [due to] nature’s virtues. [One] has false thoughts [and] attachment, [while the other has] departed [from] false thoughts [and] attachment, thus [with] sentient beings [and] Buddhas totally different, then [due to] cultivated virtues.
[Note 2: Nature’s virtues (性德) are those inherent in Buddha-nature, while cultivated virtues (修德) are those expressed.]
Cultivated virtues [are] with [those] according [and] with [those] opposing [nature. Of those] according [with] nature then cultivating, the more cultivating [there is], the more close [it will be]. Cultivating [to the] utmost then [with] thorough realisation, [with] realisation yet completely without that attained. [Of those] opposing nature then ‘cultivating’, the more ‘cultivating’ [there is], the more far [it will be]. ‘Cultivating’ [to the] utmost then [with] long falling [into] evil paths, [with] falling yet completely without that lost.
[Note 3: That of ‘without that attained’ and ‘without that lost’ is Buddha-nature and its virtues, as they are inherently there, with or without cultivation. However, it is only with cultivation of virtues that Buddha-nature can be realised.]
Understanding this, then can those foolish [become] virtuous, can those virtuous [become] foolish, can those [with] long lives [have] premature deaths, [and] can those [supposed to have] premature deaths [have] long lives. [Of] wealth [and] honour, poverty [and] lowliness, and with [the] multiplication [and] extinction of children [and] grandchildren, [of] each [and] every [one], all can personally act [as their] masters.
[Note 4: Those who become more virtuous by cultivating virtues (修德) to realise their nature’s virtues (性德) will have longer lives, more wealth with honour and descendants (if wished). Those who become more foolish by ‘cultivating’ the non-virtuous to part from their nature’s virtues will have shorter lives, more poverty with lowliness and less descendants (if wished).]
Then having those [with] foundation, [who] also can [become those] without foundation, [and] those without foundation. [who] also can [become those] with foundation. Like [a] mountain high that cannot [be] ascended, [with] people not able [to] follow [along, they] might as well chisel rocks [to] establish stone steps. Then [if with a] distant peak, [it] also can [be] directly reached.
[Note 5: If ‘cultivating’ in the wrong direction, even those with a spiritual foundation will be as if without it. If cultivating in the right direction diligently, even with great obstacles, they can all be overcome.]
[Due to] ancient [and] modern people, not knowing [the] meanings of according [to the] mind creating karma, [and] according [to the] mind transforming karma, how many people [with] great ‘intelligence’ [and] great ‘knowledge’, manage to [have their] previous efforts all lost, in addition, leaving harm [for] accumulated kalpas?
[Note 6: From the mind, is karma created, mentally, verbally and physically. Thus, it is with the mind that karma can be changed too, with the creating of different karma. If the law of karma is not understood, the ‘intelligent’ are actually foolish, and the ‘knowledgeable’ are actually ignorant, who might let their misconceptions harm themselves for many lives. If they taught them to others, they can harm them for many lives too.]
If not cultivating virtues, even [if] personally accomplishing wealth [of the] heavens below, honoured as heaven’s son [i.e. emperor], and [as] those [with] positions utmost [as] people’s officials, [with the] prime minister’s position’s prestige [and] power, are [there] not those [in this] immediate life, then [with] themselves killed [and with their] clans destroyed? [This] is [with] those personally attaining [them] all [being] without foundation.
[Note 7: Even if not cultivating virtues, it is still possible to be accomplished in worldly ways due to much past good karma (善业) bearing fruit naturally. If there is no continual cultivating of virtues, with past good karma running out, and/or while ‘cultivating’ the non-virtuous instead, the evil karma (恶业) created can in the worst-case scenario kill oneself, and loved ones, if they have corresponding collective (evil) karma (共业) too.]
[As] Yuán Liǎofán [had] considerable understanding [of] these meanings, thus [knowing] all that enjoyed [are] not all [from] past causes, [as] those fixed. Past causes [form that] commonly so-called destiny. That [on] ‘destiny definitely conquers humans’, [is so-]called [with] past causes [as] those difficult [to] transform. That [on] ‘humans definitely [can] also conquer destiny’, [is so-]called [with] careful [and] conscientious practice, then [with] past causes not enough [for] relying [on. This] is with [a] present cause as [the] cause, then eliminating [a] previous cause. If [with] unrestrained thoughts [and] reckless actions, then is [it the] reverse.
[Note 8: Yuán Liǎofán’s (袁了凡) understanding on the law of karma (i.e. cause and effect [因果]) are recorded in his Liǎofán’s Four Lessons《了凡四训》: http://www.donglin.org/wenku/9/F-003%20%E4%BA%86%E5%87%A1%E5%9B%9B%E8%AE%AD-%E6%9C%AC%E4%B9%89%E7%9B%B4%E8%A7%A3%EF%BC%88%E7%BD%91%EF%BC%89%202021.1.9.pdf. ‘With past causes not enough for relying on’ means they become that not fully reliable as the present causes created can transform, by mitigating or magnifying their effects, for better or worse accordingly.]
Understanding this, then [will] those about [to be] foolish [become] virtuous, those ordinary [and] common [become] outstanding, all [depending] on one’s [own] attentive cultivating of virtues, [at] all times [practising] good teachings only.
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
Dharma Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings (First Compilation): Sixth Reply Letter [To A] Certain Yǒngjiā Layperson;
Record [Of] Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence (225th Short Section): 5th [Chapter]: Encouragement [Of The] Mind [To] Dwell [In] Sincerity [And] Reverence (3rd Short Section)
[Ref: #225 / 5.3]
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an
Record Of Great Master Yìnguāng’s Collected Writings’ Essence