By Ping Seng Ye Cheng
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team; edited by Eddie Cao)
We always hope that reciting Amitabha’s name enables us to live peacefully for the rest of our lives, embraced by his light, without mood swings. Once this life is over, our lotus flower in the Land of Bliss will bloom, signifying our rebirth, and soon after, we can return to the Saha world to carry out our vows.
Nevertheless, in this frustrating world, where things are impermanent, despite already being guests in the Land of Bliss, we are still ordinary beings subject to karmic forces and filled with greed, hatred, and delusion. Even though we are embraced by Amitabha’s light, we still have afflictions of ignorance and may encounter unpredictable incidents that inflict pain upon us.
Whenever experiencing impermanent events or afflictions that make me boil over, I recite the name of Amitabha Buddha and silently leave everything to him, whether it be good, bad, bright, dark, happy, or sad.
The six-character name is my only and final support, for under its light, it matters not how big a predicament or affliction I encounter. With each recitation, my heart gradually subsides, and I am able to reflect upon what just happened.
At this time, there will always be a few words that appear before me, which I know to be the skillful comfort of an all-loving father. He illuminates my heart and silently accompanies me even in the most difficult of situations. His words, which emerge in my heart, are but the loving father’s silent inspiration.
Everything is based on causes and conditions, with no one exempt.
In this world, nothing happens without a reason, and once it has occurred, it is inevitable.
Everything has its causes and conditions, and whatever happens to us in particular is based on our karmic connections.
The law of cause and effect connects all three periods of time [past, present, and future], and our karmic offenses are countless from immeasurable kalpas’ worth of unseen past lives. So our causes and conditions, being intricate, are where all seemingly incomprehensible things lie. How can ordinary beings such as us see them?
Although the causes of what happens to us in this life are unknown, we must always trust that they are our karmic creations and have nothing to do with others.
Within the karmic web of causes and conditions, this means that all things occur by reason, not by chance.
In addition, they move along a certain trajectory in an orderly manner, which we can neither see nor predict.
In understanding karmic connections, we must learn to accept them and the fact that we are ordinary beings who can create further karma, which, in turn, can lead to further bitter effects.
We may still encounter terrible things when reciting Amitabha’s name, not because he doesn’t care about us, but due to the ripening of our own past karma, the relevant causes and conditions having manifested.
Without the name, things may be worse, for it is how our benevolent father has eliminated our countless karmic offenses and the suffering of samsara. Whatever suffering remains is but a drop of water compared to the ocean.
As said before, everything is based on causes and conditions, which determine our karmic connections. When we encounter hardships, it is because of our past negative karma; but when we encounter Amitabha (specifically his name), it is the karma of the Great Vow that the benevolent father made to deliver us. Moreover, it is the most fortunate karmic event even in a miserable life.
This life becomes perfect, despite our suffering, because it lasts only a hundred years, and we can be reborn in the Land of Bliss thereafter.
Once we return, father and child are finally united in a happily-ever-after scene.
Aside from rejoicing, we might also complain to our loving father about the kinds of suffering in this life, but he would only smile slightly. As stated in Master Shandao’s In Praise of Pratyutpanna:
At the time, Amitabha and saintly beings in the Land of Bliss feel sad upon hearing us suffer.
He advises us that we shouldn’t blame others for our own actions.
Everything will pass, no matter good or bad.
As time is like water running day and night, everything in this world will come and go, good or bad, yours or someone else’s.
History cannot leave the footprints of the ancient ones, nor the Saha world the dreams of us ordinary beings. Everything will eventually pass; it’s just that we are stuck and do not want to wake up.
For we are often troubled by things of the past, and our hearts are unable to pull through.
However happy our childhood and beautiful our youth, we must grow up slowly in the midst of suffering. The progression of life is simply the operation of impermanence.
For the rest of our time spent in the Saha world, whatever our encounters, we must believe that reciting Amitabha’s name will enable everything to go by.
Do not worry or be afraid, for everything will pass. We have been through immeasurable kalpas of suffering already, and it will draw to a perfect end, with the remainder of our time, good or bad, happy or sad, being but brief moments, thanks to the embracing light of our loving father’s name. From this long-lasting dream of birth and death, we will finally awaken to the endless joy of nirvana.
When reciting Amitabha’s name, let us say to impermanence:
In the care of our loving father, everything in the Saha world will forever become the past.
Upon returning to our homeland, we will find that birth and death have truly ended and we shall suffer no more.
Everything will be fine so long as we are reborn in the Land of Bliss.
During our days in the Saha world, chanting the name of Amitabha puts us in his care, so even if there is pain, everything will be fine.
All our pain is caused by our various past karma, but a single recitation of Amitabha’s name eradicates eight billion kalpas’ worth of birth and death offenses. The tree of samsara is uprooted, and the remaining leaves of pain will eventually, gradually fall off.
A hundred years may seem long, but it is only the snap of one’s fingers compared to the immeasurable kalpas of birth and death.
Our world, no matter how good, is contaminated, upside-down, and impure. We need only recite Amitabha’s name to return to the Land of Bliss, our hometown which is TRULY good.
THIS good, given by our loving father, is not brief as a flash of lightning or a hundred years long, but the ETERNAL bliss of nirvana.
Only when you arrive home will you truly know and understand. Any amount of verbal or written description can only serve the purpose of expediency.
Everything is arranged as best as possible for us to recite Amitabha’s name and go home.
During the days of reciting Amitabha’s name, good times or bad, we believe that he has arranged everything as best as possible.
So all encounters are trajectories tailored by him to give peace of mind and bring us home. Despite traction along the way due to our karma, we are under his watch and loving embrace. It is just like taking a plane ride, with the Land of Bliss as our destination. By reciting Amitabha’s name, we have already booked and boarded our flight, in which the route has been determined and secured by him.
We simply sit on the plane, with everything included in the flight program – eating, reading, or chatting – even though it seems like our own arrangement and can differ from everybody else’s experience. However, this is just due to our individual karma, and nothing, not even getting airsick, can make the flight change course.
Everything follows the traction of karma. When we recite Amitabha’s name, our karma becomes absorbed into that of his great vow and arranged by him entirely. Just as the Yangtze River may have pits, steep slopes, and bends, those are all the best arrangements for it to merge into the sea.
A loving father’s arrangements are often silent, hidden behind karmic forces.
For countless kalpas, he has been cultivating our virtuous roots of aptitude through various expedient and skillful means, so that we can encounter his luminous name. He wants us to rely on him completely, and aspire to return to the Land of Bliss while reciting his name. He is our master, leading us away from the forces of our karma.
A loving father’s arrangements are always the best; all experiences, positive or negative, are meant to make us loathe the Saha world and long for our return home.
Adversities are to teach suffering and encourage seeking escape.
Blessings are to encourage belief in his protection and, more firmly, that we WILL go home.
In short, everything that happens in this world is the best arrangement by our loving father to recite his name and return home, signified by the blooming of a lotus in the pond.
In our last life in the Saha world, no matter what we go through, with all the change and uncertainty, our only, unchangeable support is his name.
When reciting Amitabha’s name, we will still have all kinds of afflictions, as well as experience joys and sorrows, unions and separations. Let us try to quietly accept the silent comfort of the loving father and calmly think of these four points:
1. Everything is based on causes and conditions, with no one exempt.
2. Everything will pass, no matter good or bad.
3. Everything will be fine so long as we are reborn in the Land of Bliss.
4. Everything is arranged as best as possible for us to recite Amitabha’s name and go home.