22.11.12 : Do A Favour | How Can Some With Good Karma Become Evil? | How Two Brothers Reached Pure Land | The Making Of 'Sam & Sara'
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Get The Daily Enlightenment eBooks Realisation: How Can Some With Good Karma Become Evil?
If merits and wisdom
are always steadily cumulative
from life to life,
we should be liberated already.
One might be reborn into very favourable physical and material circumstances as a result of past good karma ripening now. However, being ignorant of the Dharma (and karma), one might become evil. But how is this possible when one should have some wholesome mental qualities carried over from the previous life, which were precisely what led to this good rebirth? Well, one's propensity for evil is determined by the present response to one's three poisons (greed, hatred, delusion); not by the quality and quantity of one's past created good karma. Having created good karma in a past life does not ensure there will be goodness of character in the next – unless one is already on a non-retrogressible (non-backsliding) path towards enlightenment. The truth is, most of us are not on this path yet.
While those who do great good and evil have great rises and falls from life to life, the average ones rise and fall similarly, although to lesser extents. As an extreme example, one who created great good karma as a human might be reborn into a heavenly plane. However, the ripening of good karma does not equate to the ripening or growth of wisdom. This is why many gods are complacent about the importance of practising the Dharma to further the spiritual path. This can lead to falling badly into the lower realms when their good karma exhausts – due to it not being topped up in time, and when their remnant bad karma created in the past ripens. In fact, it is said that the anguish gods experience in their last moments on the brink of falling is so terrible that it is similar to that of hell-beings.
At the other end of this spectrum, although relatively rare, one who had created great evil karma might be reborn in a hell. Yet, if one is able to repent and be mindful of the practice of mindfulness of Buddha, with such awakening from complacence of the Dharma, it is possible to swiftly depart for Pure Land, which has more sublime and spiritual bliss than all heavenly planes. As a lesser extreme, a human who had done some good might be reborn into more well-to-do conditions in a future human life. This might lead to a relatively 'godly' and complacent life though, due to lack of a strong connection to the Dharma. At the other end of this scale, a human who had done some evil might be reborn into less privileged conditions in a future human life. This might spur one to strive to be a better person though.
As long as we are far from enlightenment, our propensity to alternate between good and evil is not fixed. The way we were, be we more good or evil in a past moment, does not determine that we will continue to be good or evil in a future moment. We should be mindful not to equate the fruition of good karma with the continual tendency of being good. Just because one is enjoying the good fruits of one's labour does not mean one will continue to labour in doing more good. In this sense, paradoxically, good karma is not always good, as in leading to spiritually good results, just as bad karma is not always bad, as its experience can urge the pulling up of one's spiritual socks. Realising this dangerous nature of retrogressible rebirth in Samsara, this is why the Buddhas create Pure Lands – as spiritual sanctuaries and schools for us!
Just as spiritual backsliding
is possible in this very life,
with death's interruption at its end,
it is even more probable from life to life.
Are You 'Recycling' Yourself Every Three Lifetimes?
How Even the Gods May Fall
Understanding Amituofo Via the Amitabha Sutra (11th Run)
Share Articles: tde@... Excerpt: How Two Brothers Reached Pure Land
Created by Buddhas with mindfulness of the Triple Gem, Pure Lands are ideal schools for learning the Dharma, from the greatest of the Arya [Noble] Sangha. Amituofo is the 'principal' of the best known Pure Land, where Bodhisattvas are his assistant teachers, where we can be the most fortunate students.
Secondly, there was Mr. Hsi-Ping Cheng, a native of Chi-Mo in Shantung. He was a business man. After reading the sutras, he learned that it was good to recite Buddha's name and resolved to practice Amidism [Pure Land practice of nianfo: mindfulness of Amituofo; Amitabha Buddha's name] and observed celibacy all his life. In 1933, in Tsintao, after I told him about the advantages of taking the Three Refuges and practicing Amidism, he became much more devoted in his practice. He handed over the family business to his younger brother and then attended to the practice of Amidism with undivided attention. Later, he learned and was able to explain the Amitabha Sutra. Every year, he invariably went from Chi-Mo to Tsin-Tao, where he stayed for one or two days, and then proceeded to Pingtu district, where he gave a few lectures on the sutra to his Buddhist friends.
In 1935, Mr. Cheng invited me to preach in Pingtu. In the spring of 1939, Mr. Cheng went to Pingtu, via Tsintao, to lecture on the sutra. After two weeks, someone came from Pingtu and told me, "Don't you know, Master, that Mr. Hsi-Ping Cheng is gone?" I was stunned by this news, and said: "Some ten days ago he was quite well when he passed by here. How could it be that now he is gone so suddenly? What ailed him? How did he pass away?" When Mr. Cheng had finished his lecture on the Amitabha Sutra, I was told, most of his audience left. Only five or six who had made arrangement for the lectures stayed on for lunch, as they were good friends. After lunch, Mr. Cheng asked one of his friends to have one room rented for him because he was going away.
His friend asked him, "If you are going away, why do you need a room?" "I am going to be reborn in the Pure Land," Mr. Cheng replied, "People, however, may not like the idea that I might die in their house." His friend said, "We have been good friends for many years, so that even if you were not to be reborn in the Pure Land and even if you were to succumb to illness, you would be welcome to pass away in my home. Why bother to find a room somewhere else? Now, we have here many who believe in Buddhism and practice Amidism. If you are sure of your rebirth in the Pure Land, you should let the Amidists here witness your example." Having said these words, his friend had two rooms in his house vacated and a bunk prepared.
Mr. Cheng bid a brief farewell to his friends, giving himself a good shake, and sat on the bunk, cross-legged,facing the west. Then he said, "I beg your leave for I am going now. Since we have gathered in the faith of Buddha, I ask, most humbly, that you please invoke Buddha's name in seeing me off." A friend said: "Won't you give us a gatha [Dharma verse] as a token of remembrance?" Mr. Cheng replied: "lt is not necessary to give any gatha. You see how I may go without ado like this. You may remember me by following my example." After hearing these words, they all recited Buddha's name in bidding him goodbye. Mr. Cheng passed away smiling, in less than fifteen minutes. Hence almost all the people in Pingtu knew that it was good to practice Amidism. Many, many people were thus led to believe in Buddhism.
Mr. Cheng's younger brother had been disappointed in his elder brother, who had given up the family and handed over their business to him in order to concentrate on the practice of Amidism. Later, after repeated persuasion by this elder brother, the younger one also came to believe in Buddha's teaching and practiced Amidism, though rather reluctantly and not in earnest. However, now he had witnessed his elder brother's rebirth in the Pure Land while reciting Buddha's name, clearly knowing in advance the hour of his departure, and going with dignity and without fuss. He then realized the absolute truth of Amidism. Afterwards, he did nothing but practice Amidism. Three years later, he, too, knew in advance the hour of his departure and passed away to be reborn in the Pure Land, though he suffered some illness, and his passing was not as trouble-free as his brother's had been.
Understanding Amituofo Via the Amitabha Sutra (11th Run)
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On Amidism [Pure Land Practice]
Grandmaster T'an Hsu
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