How Does One Cultivate Good Fortune?
A Buddha, who has perfected his merit and transcendent wisdom, is humans’ “field of good fortune to beseech.” There are two kinds of fortune, secular, which is like debris, and spiritual, which is like gold. Good karmic reward is brought about by good deeds, while evil conduct results in retribution. The law of cause and effect is never wrong, but neither is the cause of emancipation. One leads to rebirth in heaven, while the other leads to rebirth in hell, and both paths are not ways out of samsara, for humans are lost in the good and evil acts, thus transmigrating in the six realms.
Encountering a genuinely good Buddhist teacher is a great blessing to a practitioner. The sutra says, “a good Buddhist teacher is sentient beings’ only predetermined condition to emancipation!” It is also said that if you wish to know the path going up a mountain, ask those coming downhill. A good teacher is someone with eyes for the blind, leading them out of danger. Master Shandao’s Five Books in Nine Fascicles have been the illuminating eye for more than a thousand years, guiding countless Amitabha name-reciters to the Western Pure Land. During the 1000 CE onwards, when his work was lost, it was like the illuminating eye had been taken away. The rediscovery of his writings in the early 1900s became an enormous blessing to sentient beings.
Master Huijing and other masters of Pure Land Buddhism are the teachers with the eyes that Buddhists are seeking. Those of us with the karmic connections to encounter them are blessed. Although we do not have wisdom ourselves, this kind of blessing contains the wisdom not obtainable by ordinary knowledge. It is also considered immeasurable, greater than all other mundane and superlative blessings, even that of being a Bodhisattva. Why? Because this blessing will make us Buddhas in our lifetime. Patriarch Master Yinguang says: “Be not surprised that a single recitation should surpass the Ten Ground stages of Bodhisattvas; you should know that the six-character name encompasses the Three Vehicles (Sravaka, Pratyekabuddha, and Bodhisattva).” The Infinite Life Sutra states, “Because of doubts about this Dharma, one hundred million bodhisattvas retrogressed from Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi,” which means when we become Buddhas, there are millions of bodhisattvas still advancing and retreating on the path of Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Doesn’t this mean that our blessing IS more significant than that of these Bodhisattvas? Therefore, the Pure Land path is inconceivable, and an Amitabha name-reciter’s blessing is so great even we can’t feel it; like air, we can’t see it, but no one can separate from it, not for a moment.
I believe the transcendental blessing is more important than transcendental wisdom in the Dharma Ending Period, as rarely do cultivators truly possess the latter. Most of us have wisdom powerful as a tempest when facing samsara but weak as meekness when dealing with liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
To be free from samsara, a practitioner of the Sage-path must cultivate and rely on supreme wisdom, whereas a practitioner of the Pure Land path relies solely on the power of the Buddha’s compassion. As one of Master Shandao’s quotes states, “Amitabha’s name is the sharp sword of wisdom; just one recitation severs all karmic offenses.” We must understand the differences between the various Dharma schools. Otherwise, it may cost us the rarest chance of rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, much like a fool trading away a priceless mani jewel for a candy bar.
Blessings and good fortune are not the same as merits and virtues; the latter is not achievable by ordinary mortals, who obstinately treat blessings as merits, and flawed good deeds as infinite merits.
These so-called good deeds come not from a purified but a delusive mind. Even if one vows a sanctified mind, it is like painted water; it is short-lived and disappears instantly; this is the normality of sentient beings in the Saha world.
The Buddha is a great benefactor, bailing out the impoverished and afflicted in all lands universally, endowing them with the infinite and indescribable blessings of the six-character name, Namo Amituofo. Unlike the common notion that to accept blessings is equivalent to losing them, the blessing of Namo Amituofo, once received, will multiply and reach its completion until the end of life.
To have faith and teach others to have faith in Amitabha is to share the Buddha’s blessing with sentient beings. Upon death, we will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss and, like the Buddha and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, we will traverse the Dharma Realm to offer infinite blessings to all beings.
(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
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