[2] Do Pure Land Aspirants Renounce Here For There? 愿生净土者有舍此求彼吗?

The Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land

Written by Sui Dynasty’s Tiantai Tradition’s Great Master Zhizhe (538–597 CE)
Translated to English by Upāsaka Shen Shi’an (2014 CE)
[This improved version replaces previous versions]

疑: 舍此求彼疑
The Second Doubt: Doubt Renouncing Here And Seeking There

问曰: 「诸法体空,本来无生,平等寂灭。

Question: All dharmas28 are essentially emptiness,29 originally of non-birth,30 equal and still.31


Now then, to renounce here and seek there, for birth in the Western Pure Land of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo], how can this not contradict reason?


Moreover, a sūtra32 says, ‘If seeking Pure Land, first purify that mind. [With that] mind purified thus, is the Buddha land33 purified.’ How is this to be understood?


Answer: The explanation has two meanings. The first, is the general answer. The second, is the distinct answer.


For the general answer, if you say, ‘Seeking birth in the Western Pure Land of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo], is thus to renounce here and seek there, which does not accord with reason’, you are attached to abiding here. Not seeking the West[ern Pure Land], is thus to renounce there, and be attached to here. This still becomes a sickness, which does not accord with reason.


Moreover, after reconsideration, to say, ‘I neither seek birth there, nor seek birth here’, is thus the view of nihilism.34


Thus, the Vajra Prajñā Sūtra35 says, ‘Subhūti,36 if you give rise to this thought, that “those who aspire for Anut[tarā Samyak Saṃ]bodhi,37 speak of all dharmas as cessation of forms”, do not give rise to this thought. Why is this so? Those who give rise to Bodhicitta, when regarding dharmas, do not speak of [them as] cessation of forms.’


Second, for the distinct answer, that of non-birth and non-cessation,38 are within conditions39 of birth.40 All dharmas harmonise, without attachment to [any] self-nature.41 Seeking within for the essence of birth, likewise unattainable is this birth. When born, it comes from nowhere. Thus is it named non-birth.


For that of non-cessation, when all dharmas disperse, they are without attachment to [any] self-nature. Speaking of ‘I’ dispersing, when this dispersing occurs, as it goes to nowhere, thus is it said to be non-cessation.


This does not mean that other than the rising [and falling] of causes and conditions, there is another [essence] of non-birth and non-cessation. Likewise, it is not that not seeking birth in Pure Land is called non-birth.


Due to this, a verse in the Middle Treatise42 says, ‘Dharmas born of causes and conditions, I say is emptiness, likewise named as false names,43 likewise named the meaning of the Middle Way.’44


Moreover, it says, ‘All dharmas are not self-born, likewise not from others born, not together with or without causes [and conditions], they are thus known as non-birth.’


Moreover, the Vimalakīrti Sūtra says, ‘Although knowing that all Buddha lands and their sentient beings are emptiness, yet constantly cultivate the Pure Land [practice], for teaching and transforming all groups of beings.’45


Moreover, it says, ‘For example, there is a person building a palace. If relying on open land, one can build as wished, and without obstruction. If relying on empty space, in the end, it cannot be accomplished.’


All Buddhas, when speaking the Dharma,46 constantly rely on the Two Truths,47 not destroying false names, and yet speaking of all dharmas’ true nature.

智者炽然求生净土,达生体不可得,即是真无生。此谓『心净故,即佛土净。 』

Wise ones diligently seek birth in [the] Pure Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)], understanding that the essence of birth is unattainable, which is true non-birth. This is the meaning of ‘[With that] mind purified thus, is the Buddha land purified.’


Deluded ones are by birth bound. Hearing of birth, they give rise to the [mis]understanding of [actual] birth. Hearing of non-birth, they give rise to the [mis]understanding of no-birth. They do not know that birth is non-birth, that non-birth is birth.


Not understanding this reasoning, they give rise to much discord with one another, and are displeased48 with others who seek birth in [Amitā(bha) Buddha’s (Amituofo)] Pure Land. How grave a mistake this is! They are thus slanderers and transgressors of the Dharma, with evil views of external paths.49


28 Phenomena of mind and matter
29 Being empty of permanence and self in the aggregates of mind and matter
30 Unborn; without birth; non-origination; non-arising (independently)
31 Peaceful or tranquil
32 Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra 维摩诘所说经: Discourse On Teaching Spoken By Vimalakīrti
33 World a Buddha resides or manifests to teach
34 An extreme wrong view that there are neither (useful) forms (nor law of cause and effect)
35 Vajracchedikā Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra 金刚般若波罗蜜经: Discourse On The Adamantine (Cutter) Perfection Of Wisdom (Diamond Sūtra 金刚经)
36 Śākyamuni Buddha’s Arhat disciple foremost in realisation of emptiness
37 阿耨多罗三藐三菩提 Unsurpassable Equally Perfect Enlightenment; Buddhahood
38 … or ‘non-arising and non-falling (death)’
39 … which interdependently arise (and fall)
40 … and cessation (death)
41 Unchanging and thus substantial nature
42 Mūla Madhyamaka Kārikā 中观论/中论颂/中观根本论: (Treatise On) Fundamental Verses On The Middle Way
43 … or ‘conventionally/provisionally named’ (for teaching)
44 … of functioning balanced with form/emptiness without attachment or aversion to either
45 … by encouraging oneself and others to reach Pure Land to most swiftly attain Buddhahood
46 The Buddhas’ teachings of truth that lead to Buddhahood
47 Conventional Truth(s) about forms and Ultimate Truth about emptiness
48 … or ‘angry’
49 … that lead away from the path to Buddhahood

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