What Are Good Roots And Blessed Virtues For Birth In Āmítuófó’s Pure Land? 何为得生阿弥陀佛净土的善根与福德?Good Roots And Blessed Virtues As Explained In The Essential Explanation On The Amitābha Sūtra As Spoken By The Buddha《佛说弥陀经要解》对善根福德的解释

(i) Good Roots And Blessed Virtues As Cause And Condition

In the Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitābha Buddha《佛说阿弥陀经》, Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) taught that ‘one cannot, with few good roots and blessed virtues as cause and condition, attain birth in that [Pure] Land.’ (不可以少善根、福德、因缘得生彼国。) What then, constitutes good roots (善根) and blessed virtues (福德)?

(ii) Close Cause Of Good Roots

According to the Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ǒuyì’s (净土宗九祖蕅益大师) teachings in the Essential Explanation On The Amitābha Sūtra As Spoken By The Buddha《佛说阿弥陀经要解》(1) ‘Practising Bodhi’s right path [for awakening to Buddhahood] is named as having “good roots”, the same as the close cause.’ (菩提正道名「善根」,即亲因。)

(iii) Listening To The Buddha’s Name Is With Good Roots Maturing

The above means that to have that done aligned to progress for full awakening is to have good roots. However, in the context of Pure Land teachings, the Great Master also taught that, (2) ‘[Those]… only by listening [i.e. being receptive] to the Buddha’s name [Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛], are immediately with many kalpas’ good roots maturing. Even those with the Five Heinous Transgressions and Ten Evil Karmas, are all named as “good”.’ (但闻佛名,即多劫善根成熟,五逆十恶皆名「善」也。)

(iv) With More Mindfulness Of Buddha, Are More Good Roots (And Blessed Virtues)

The above is very good news, as being able to hear Āmítuófó’s Great Name Of Ten Thousand Virtues (万德洪名) is already to have good roots. However, since ‘few good roots’ (少善根) will not do, it is better to have more mindfulness of his name (念佛) with more recitation and listening. If practising with the Three Provisions (三资粮) of profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿) of reaching his Pure Land, it will be reached.

(v) With Few Good Roots, Not Born In The Pure Land

However, the Great Master also taught that, (3) ‘Voice-Hearers [i.e. Śrāvakas] and Lone Awakeners [i.e. Pratyekabuddhas] with Bodhi’s good roots few, human and heavenly beings with blessed karmas having outflows and blessed virtues few, all cannot be born in Pure Land.’ (声闻独觉菩提善根少,人天有漏福业福德少,皆不可生净土。) (This is so as the Pure Land’s ultimate purpose is to guide all to Buddhahood, while some Voice-Hearers and Lone Realisers are not open to it.)

(vi) Not Rejecting The Bodhi Mind

The above does not mean that the conventional Bodhi Mind (Bodhicitta: 菩提心) is absolutely needed for everyone to reach the Pure Land. One just needs to be open to practising the Bodhi path to Buddhahood, to not reject it. We know this as according to the Contemplation Sūtra《观经》, the three low grades (下三品) (out of nine) have ‘giving rise to the unsurpassable path’s mind’ (发无上道心) or ‘giving rise to the Bodhi Mind’ (发菩提之心) after birth in the Pure Land.

(vii) With Faith And Aspiration Mindful Of Buddha Expresses The Bodhi Mind

With the above said, also as taught, (4) ‘With profound Faith giving rise to the Aspiration [to be born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land], this is unsurpassable Bodhi [Mind].’ (深信发愿,即无上菩提。) This means mindfulness of Buddha with Faith and Aspiration already expresses the Bodhi Mind in essence, since Bodhi (i.e. awakening of Buddhahood) will definitely be realisable via the Pure Land aspired towards.

(viii) With Practices Supporting The Path As Blessed Virtues

On blessed virtues, the Great Master taught that, (5) ‘Having all kinds of practices that support the path, such as generosity, upholding precepts, meditative concentration and others are named as “blessed virtues”, that are the same as supportive conditions.’ (种种助道施、 戒、禅等名「福德」,即助缘。)

(ix) With Mindfulness Of Buddha Cultivates The Six Perfections

The above means that all other good and purifying practices aligned to the Bodhi path, which might not be in terms of mindfulness of the Buddha’s name directly, such as by practising the Six Perfections (六度) conventionally, create blessed virtues, although mindfulness of Buddha also practises the perfections in essence.

(x) With Main Practice As Main Cause, And Supportive Practices As Supportive Condition[s]

Mindfulness of Buddha thus creates good roots, which is the (main) cause ([正]因) for birth in his Pure Land, which is why this should be our Main Practice (正行), while all other Dharma practices create blessed virtues, which are (supportive) condition[s] ([助]缘), which is why they are considered as Supportive Practices (助行). Of course, mindfulness of Buddha by itself also creates blessed virtues.

(xi) With Faith And Aspiration Upholding The Name Is Complete With Many Good Roots And Blessed Virtues

As the Great Master taught, (6) ‘Only with Faith and Aspiration firmly upholding the name [of Āmítuófó], is then with each and every one recitation all complete with many good roots and blessed virtues. (唯以信愿执持名号,则一一声悉具多善根福德。)

(xii) With The Three Provisions Give Rise To Many Good Roots And Blessed Virtues

With more details, he also taught, (7) ‘Now, completely due to, with Faith and Aspiration upholding the name [of Āmítuófó], thus are Faith, Aspiration and Practice, all three, from recitation to recitation, perfect and complete, therefore is this named as having many good roots and blessed virtues as cause and condition.’ (今全由信愿持名,故信愿行三,声声圆具,所以名多善根福德因缘。)

(xiii) The Buddha Is With Great Vows As Cause Of Good Roots, And Great Practices As Condition Of Blessed Virtues

As to why mindfulness of Buddha is so powerful, the Great Master explained, (8) ‘The Buddha with his [forty-eight] great vows made as sentient beings’ cause of having many good roots, and with his great practices made as sentient beings’ condition of having many blessed virtues, enable those with Faith and Aspiration upholding his name, from thought to thought, to accomplish such meritorious virtues.’ (佛以大愿作众生多善根之因,以大行作众生多福德之缘,令信愿持名者,念念成就如是功德。)

(xiv) Those Born In The Pure Land, With Mindfulness Of The Buddha Receive Bliss

With environmental reminders to do so in the Pure Land, mindfulness of Buddha naturally continues upon reaching it, with this naturally enabling spiritually and physically blissful utilisation of its immeasurable splendours for furthering the path to Buddhahood. As the Great Master explains, (9) ‘Sentient beings, with upholding the name [of Āmítuófó’s] good roots and blessed virtues the same as the Buddha’s thus, … completely receive all kinds of bliss [in his Pure Land].’ (众生,以持名善根福德同佛故… 圆受诸乐也。)

Related Sūtras And Commentaries:

The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitābha Buddha

Essential Explanation On The Amitābha Sūtra As Spoken By The Buddha

Contemplation Sūtra

Related Teachings:

(1) (2) (3) (5) (6) [42] Main Guidance For Main Pure Land Practice

(4) [41] Why Is Upholding Āmítuófó’s Name With Faith & Aspiration The Main Practice?
What Is Unsurpassable Bodhicitta For Pure Land Birth?

(7) [50] How Does Mindfulness Of Buddha Create Much Good Roots And Blessed Virtues?

(8) [22] The Nature Of Pure Land’s Meritorious Virtues’ Adornments

(9) [19] Why Is Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land Named ‘Ultimate Bliss’?

Clear Proof Of Upholding Name As Much Good Roots And Blessed Virtues 

How To Have Enough Good Roots And Blessed Virtues As Cause And Condition For Birth In Pure Land?

Many Good Roots’ Blessed Virtues

How To Have Enough Merits To Reach Pure Land?

念佛如何圆修六度 (2)
How Buddha Mindfulness Completes The Six Perfections (2)

The Three Provisions

Is Bodhicitta [Bodhi Mind] A Must For Birth In Amituofo’s Pure Land?

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