Can We Bring All Old And New, Good And Evil Karmas To Be Reborn In Pure Land? 我们能带一切旧新善恶业往生净土吗?

In the Pure Land (净土) teachings connected to Āmítuófó (阿弥陀佛: Amitā[bha] Buddha), there is an important principle called ‘to bring one’s [mixed] karmas [杂业] to be reborn [in the Pure Land]’ (带业往生). What this means is that even if we have good karmas (善业) mixed with evil karmas (恶业), as long as we, ‘with Faith and Aspiration uphold the name [of Āmítuófó]’ (信愿持名) with utmost sincerity (至诚恳心), be it verbally or just mentally, there will be connection to him, who will be able to receive and guide (接引) us to his Pure Land. This is an eternally valid truth.

We are able to bring mixed karmas, which include evil karmas to enter the Buddha’s Pure Land exactly because there is connection to his blessings. Once connected, his immeasurable meritorious virtues (无量功德) will ‘dilute’ to disable our much but still limited evil karmas from our present and many past lives (现在与过去世), thus empowering us to deserve entry. As another analogy, our evil karmas are likened to ‘heavy rocks’ easily delivered with the ‘ship’ powered by Āmítuófó’s great vows (大愿力) across suffering’s ocean (苦海), with the rocks otherwise sinking directly.

‘To bring one’s [mixed] karmas to be reborn [in the Pure Land]’ is thus a crucial concept that allows still defiled beings to enter the Pure Land. Since the Pure Land is exactly for us defiled beings to further learn and practise (修学) the Dharma, to thoroughly purify ourselves, there cannot be the prerequisite of purity to enter it. Well, if we are perfectly pure already, there will be no need to reach any Pure Land at all! With that said, some believe we can only bring ‘old [evil] karmas’ (旧[恶]业) to Pure Land; and not any ‘new [evil] karmas’ (新[恶]业). Is this true?

This idea that one can only ‘bring one’s old [evil] karmas to be reborn [in the Pure Land]’ (带旧[恶]业往生) is false. As Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) taught in the Earth Treasury Sūtra《地藏经》, ‘Of Jambudvīpa’s sentient beings’ actions and moving thoughts, none are not with [evil] karmas, none are not with transgressions, what more when indulging in killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and a hundred thousand forms of transgressions?’ (南阎浮提众生,举止动念,无不是业,无不是罪,何况恣情杀害、窃盗、邪淫、妄语,百千罪状?)

This teaching is a grave reminder that all ordinary beings (凡夫) in our world are unable to give rise to a single thought that is totally free from any evil karma. This is likewise so when suffering on the deathbed, when the three poisons (三毒) of greed, hatred and delusion (贪嗔痴) can still be active. There might be some craving to be free from pain, coupled with some fear of pain (怕痛), which are subtle forms of greed and hatred respectively. However, there will be no greed to live on or fear of death (贪生怕死) if there is clear and sincere Aspiration to reach Pure Land.

Thus, there might be some poisons before taking rebirth, which create ‘new evil karmas’ (新恶业). Yet, we can also be ‘with Faith and Aspiration upholding the name [of Āmítuófó]’. With these Three Provisions (三资粮) of profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿) expressed through the true Practice (实行) of upholding his name (持名), this will surely overpower and subdue the poisons which are relatively weaker. Together, what created are still considered as pure karmas (净业) for reaching Pure Land, although not completely pure, which only Buddhas can.

In fact, only Buddhas can have perfectly pure mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), without any of the three poisons in the slightest. Since Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is the easiest to enter, it simply cannot be that absolutely pure mindfulness and pure karmas are needed. We know this is so as there are many ancient and contemporary cases of those who have done great evil, who repented in time and practised mindfulness of Buddha successfully amidst some desperation (from fear of retribution if reborn elsewhere). As long as the provisions are stronger than the poisons, all will be well!

Related Teachings:

The Principle Of Carrying Evil Karmas, Yet Being Able To Be Reborn In Pure Land

[186] With Karmic Power Great Or Little, All Can Rely On The Buddha’s Power, For Rebirth In His Pure Land

How Can Niànfó Prevent The Worst Rebirth To Attain The Best?

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