Where Best To Go When This Life Ends?


– 大智度论

For completely bound ordinary beings, who have the mind of great compassion, and aspire for birth in this evil period, to save suffering sentient beings, this is not possible.

– Treatise On The Great Perfection Of Wisdom
(Nagarjuna Bodhisattva)

Since most, if not all of us, will NOT be liberated from the cycle of rebirth in this lifetime, there are these four alternatives for consideration… [1] You can try to hang around indefinitely, though if your negative karma is strong, you will be pulled quickly into a lower realm of rebirth. Even if not, the law of karma will still force you to take rebirth eventually. [2] You can let your karma unfold naturally, letting it direct you to wherever it does. While this might sound ‘cool’, it is foolish and dangerous, especially if you might have much negative karma, which will lead to an unfortunate rebirth.

[3] You can choose to return to this world, perhaps to continue helping to make it a better place. [4] You can practise mindfulness of Buddha (Nianfo) well, to reach Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land, where there will be the swiftest progress without obstacles, to advance through the ranks of Bodhisattvahood to best benefit all beings, before becoming ready to manifest Buddhahood. Although there are other destinations as choices, it is clear that ALL Buddhas most highly recommend Amituofo’s Pure Land, as stated in the Amitabha Sutra, Immeasurable Life Sutra and more.

Obviously, only choices [3] and [4] are sensible, but which is more so? On [3], most of us will forget this life in our next lives, even upon return to this same world as aspired. We know this because in this very life, we cannot remember our immediate past lives! Even if there is some vague sense of familiarity, unless we were great masters, we will not remember even a single Buddhist teaching, that we might had learnt much of in our past lives. This is backsliding in wisdom. We can also see some Buddhist friends who backslide in Dharma learning and practice in this very lifetime, what more to say of this possibly occurring to us from life to life!

When Dharma connections are thus broken or weakened, there will be spiritual complacency, that leads to looser morality, which breaks the precepts, creating negative karma. Thus, even those who had created much positive karma in a past life, that led to a better but more distracting worldly life can become spiritually wayward. This is backsliding in merits (meritorious virtues). Together, there is the great likelihood of backsliding by depletion of merits and wisdom, which should be accumulated and perfected for Buddhahood instead.

Unless already well-trained Bodhisattvas, even those who nobly wish to return here immediately after this life ends to help other beings will backslide. Even some junior tulkus, who are recognised reborn Buddhist masters are known to backslide. Thus, if we keep urging ourselves and others to directly return to this spiritually defiled land, which tends to spur our defilements to thrive, not only are we not liberating one another from rebirth, we are compounding the problem by rendering more to be stuck. This is why ALL Buddhas make it a point to, even if not asked, exhort beings of defiled lands to attain birth in Amituofo’s Pure Land for training to be the most efficient Bodhisattvas, while never urging beginner Bodhisattvas to stay in defiled lands.

Our world is also entering deeper into the Dharma-Ending Age, which is when the quality of the Dharma being taught, learnt, practised and realised is on general decline. Being a most compassionate and responsible teacher, instead of just letting all of us spiritually sink, the Buddha highlighted Nianfo to be the practice most feasible for most in these times, which offers our final lifeline to spiritual safety and liberation.

It is not that we should neglect the welfare of beings this world. We ought to take the ‘Middle Path’ approach, of doing our best to make this world a better place for one another now, but while also urging one another to take up the lifeline of reaching the best place which is Pure Land, where all will be saved. There is no forsaking of anyone as we are going there for training to be the greatest Bodhisattvas, to be equal to the likes of Samantabhadra (Puxian; 普贤) Bodhisattva and Avalokiteshvara (Guanshiyin; 观世音) Bodhisattva, who are truly capable of guiding countless beings all the way to Buddhahood.

To instead return here right after this life, while asking others to also cling to a ‘sinking boat’ is not only a non-solution; it is part of the problem, that makes the boat sink faster with its added burden. Having forgotten their past mission to rescue others, these returners themselves will also need to be rescued by actual Bodhisattvas!

This is why we ought to take up the safest option of [4], to practise Nianfo sincerely and diligently to reach Amituofo’s Pure Land, this best Dharma school. Empowered by Amituofo’s blessings there, all lessons from past lives will be recalled. This is just one instance of countless ways, of how our spiritual cultivation will only progress there!


– 无量寿经

When it is the last period of the Dharma-Ending Age, [I will] specially retain this Sutra, for one hundred [more] years in this world, to receive and guide sentient beings, for rebirth in that [Pure] Land [of Amituofo].

–  Immeasurable Life Sutra
(Sakyamuni Buddha)

Related Articles:

Are You ‘Recycling’ Yourself Every Three Lifetimes?
How Death Hinders Progress To Liberation
What If You Are A ‘Tulku’?
Do Pure Land Aspirants Forsake Other Beings?

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