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 Rather be Reborn in the Lowest Level of the Nine Lotus Grades


No human can elude death amid the four stages of existence,
Nor can any heavenly being evade the five signs of decay.
Rather be reborn in the Pure Land in the lowest level of the ninth Lotus Grades,
Than ever to experience embryonic birth in the Saha world again.

       The saying that “No human can elude death amid the four stages of existence” tells us that all phenomena go through four stages of  existence in the human realm. They are : coming into being, dwelling, changing, and ceasing to exist; or put differently in the case of our lives -  birth, aging, illness, and death. And the finality is always death. Hence, this saying.

       “Nor can any heavenly being evade the five signs of decay.” Even those born in the heavenly realm will find that the five signs of decay are inevitable. In the end, there is “death”.

       “Rather be reborn in the Pure Land in the lowest level of the ninth Lotus Grades”: I would rather be reborn in the lowest ninth level of Lotus Flower in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

       “Than ever to experience embryonic birth in the Saha world again”: I really do not wish to have an embryonic birth in the Saha World again. Embryonic birth refers to being born as a human, or even as an animal such as a cow or a horse. Why not? Because whether we’re born in the human or heavenly realm, we will eventually die. Only in the Land of Ultimate Bliss can one attain eternal life and peace and joy. If one were to be conceived in an embryo again, one would be bound in the six realms of samsara and, while in samsara, there is a chance of falling into the three wretched realms, the “boundless sea of suffering”.

The Regrets of the Third Life

       One of the Pure Land Patriarchs, Master Lianchi, who lived in the late Ming Dynasty, had a short but thought-provoking quote:

A monastic who upholds the precepts and cultivates virtues during this lifetime,
But fails to attain enlightenment because his resolve is weak,
and does not seek rebirth to the Pure Land,
May be rewarded with wealth and prosperity in his next life,
But he is likely to be corrupted by money and power,
And to commit evil doings.
And to end up in a wretched realm in the life after that.

       This passage is from A Collection of Essays Written Behind Bamboo Windows. It means that monastics who strictly observe precepts and broadly cultivate virtues in this life, but who fail to attain enlightenment, and whose aspirations are not firm, and who don't aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, will often be rewarded with great wealth and status in their next life - meaning they will be born rich and powerful. However, they will also often be ensnared by their wealth and status, losing sight of the need to practice, and engaging in immoral activities and vices, thus falling into the three wretched realms. Therefore, there is this danger once we are reborn as humans.

       Just as Master Yinguang has said - the purpose of our practice is to liberate ourselves from the cycle of birth and death. If we fail to do so, we will be bound in samsara and inevitably fall into the three wretched realms. It is a very dire situation.

       Another Pure Land Patriarch, Master Jieliu, also had a few inspiring words to say:

If a practitioner lacks true faith to seek rebirth in the Pure Land, and instead engages in miscellaneous virtuous practices, he will end up having deep regrets in his third life.

       All the virtuous deeds accumulated in this life by practitioners, whether monastics or lay persons, who do not have faith in Amitabha’s deliverance and do not aspire to be reborn in the Buddha’s Pure Land, will definitely bring them great wealth and prosperity in their next life. However, in the life after that, they will inevitably be born out of the womb of an animal: a cow or a horse. They may even fall into hell. What a terrifying prospect!

Aspiration to Rebirth - The First Step in Cultivation

       If a sentient being continuously reincarnates in the human realm, encounters the Dharma, and maintains the Bodhi mind, he will become a Buddha after cultivating for three Asaṃkhyeya kalpas (countless kalpas). Only such extraordinary beings can then safely stay on in the Saha world. For others [ordinary beings like us], the only safe path is the Pure Land path, which is the easy path. Rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss instantly breaks the cycle of birth and death . We are not required to go through the slow and gradual process of birth, growth, and learning to attain Buddhahood. Enlightenment occurs instantly upon reaching the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Moreover, those reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are guaranteed liberation from samsara, enabling them to aspire to return to the Saha world (or other worlds of the ten directions) to save sentient beings. Therefore, the first step in cultivation is aspiring to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

The Human Form Once Lost Won’t be Regained for Countless Kalpas

       There is a saying: "A human form, once lost, cannot be regained for ten thousand kalpas.” Buddhist practitioners hear this saying often. However, if we do not take it to heart, it is like hearing without listening. How terrifying it is that “once our lives in the human realm are over, there is no hope to be reborn as a human again even after ten thousand kalpas”. 

       Back at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, Sudatta, a wealthy elder, decided to build the Jetavana Monastery for the Buddha. When measuring the foundation, Shariputra saw some ants on the ground and said to Sudatta, "During the time of seven Buddhas’ appearances in this world, the ants that now inhabit this place were continuously reborn as ants living in the same place. How much time, or even how many kalpas does it take for one Buddha to appear? Not to mention the time it takes for seven Buddhas to manifest in this world. It must be for an inconceivably long time that these ants have remained ants. The eighth Buddha is Maitreya Buddha, who will take another 5,677 million years to appear in our world. Whilst the Buddha Sakyamuni attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, the Maitreya Bodhisattva will attain enlightenment under the Nagapuspa Tree. He will then hold the “Three Assemblies of the Nagapuspa'' and lead hundreds of millions of sentient beings to salvation.  By the time of the Three Assemblies of the Nagapuspa, will these ants have ended their ant existence? Even if they were to leave their ant bodies, can they be reborn as a human? Therefore, it is said that, "To lose the human body is to lose it for countless kalpas’ time."

       There is another saying: "Unable to leave the body of a pigeon for over eighty thousand kalpas."

Since the time of the seven Buddhas, the ants have remained ants;
After eighty thousand kalpas, the pigeons are still not free from their pigeon existence.

       One day, Shakyamuni Buddha saw a pigeon and said to Shariputra, "Even after eighty thousand kalpas, the negative karma of this pigeon means it will still remain as a pigeon." If even after eighty thousand great kalpas it remains a pigeon, when will it ever attain a human body? And after attaining a human body, when will it encounter the Dharma? Therefore, since we are fortunate enough to be born as humans and hear the Dharma, especially when we hear about the Pure Land Dharma path, which is difficult to encounter even in a hundred, thousand, or million kalpas, we must seize the opportunity in the present moment and aspire to rebirth in the Pure Land in this lifetime, without any regression.

       As the saying goes: 

Human form is hard to obtain but we have gained it;
The Dharma is difficult to encounter, yet we have heard it.
If we don’t achieve liberation from this body in this life,
When will we?


(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)



Master Huijing

Master Huijing

Master Jingzong

Master Jingzong

Guiding Principles

Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings