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]
The Tenth Doubt: Doubt Of How To Cultivate
Question: Now that there is desire and decision to seek birth in the West[ern Pure Land of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)], yet to know is what practice should be done, with what seed to sow, to attain birth in that [Pure] Land. Moreover, as ordinary beings and lay persons all have wives,142 yet to be know is if by not severing sexual desire,143 can they attain birth there or not.
Answer: Those with desire and decision to seek birth in the West[ern Pure Land], who complete two kinds of practices, will definitely attain birth there. First, is the practice of Revulsed Renunciation. Second, is the practice of Joyful Aspiration.
Speaking of the practice of Revulsed Renunciation, ordinary beings have, since beginninglessness, been entangled in and bound by the five desires, reborn in the five paths,144 to fully endure all kinds of suffering. Not giving rise to Revulsed Renunciation of the five desires, yet to be there is the date of departure.
Due to this, constantly contemplate this body to be with pus, blood, faeces, urine, and all foul fluids, which are impure, smelly and filthy.
Thus, the Nirvāṇa Sūtra145 says, ‘Thus is this body [like a] castle, that ignorant rākṣasaḥs146 stop to live within. Who with wisdom would take joy in this body?’
Moreover, the sūtra says, ‘This body is where all kinds of suffering gather, with all that is impure. Grasping at, and being bound to ulcers, boils et cetera, is essentially without meaning or benefit. Up to all heavens, all bodies are likewise thus.’
Practitioners, if walking, if sitting, if sleeping, if awake, should constantly contemplate this body to only be with suffering and without joy, to deeply give rise to Revulsed Renunciation. Even though sexual activity is not able to be immediately severed, they can gradually give rise to revulsion, by practice of seven kinds of contemplations on impurity.
First, contemplate this body of lust, to be born from attachment and afflictions, which are seeds that are impure.
Second, when one’s father and mother had intercourse, the red147 and the white148 merged, which is the receiving of birth that is impure.
Third, within one’s mother’s womb, one is below the stomach, and stays above the big intestines, which is a dwelling place that is impure.
Fourth, when in one’s mother’s womb, to only feed on the mother’s blood, is eating that is impure.
Fifth, when the days and months are full and sufficient, the head goes towards the birth canal. Pus and blood that flow out together is smelly, filthy and messy, which is the newborn body that is impure.
Sixth, with thin skin covering above, that within has pus and blood pervading everywhere, which is the whole body that is impure.
Seventh, and even after death, the body swells and decays, with its bones and flesh in length and breadth, by foxes and wolves eaten, it is after all impure.
One’s own body is so, with others’ bodies likewise so. Of the conditions attached to, with male and female bodies et cetera, we should deeply give rise to Revulsed Renunciation, by constant contemplation of their impurities. If able to thus contemplate bodies to be impure, lust and afflictions will gradually lessen.
Moreover, practise the Ten Thoughts149 and other contemplations, extensively, as the sūtras teach.
Moreover, give rise to this aspiration, ‘May I forever renounce [this body sustained by] the three spheres’ mixed foods, that is with smelly and filthy pus and blood that is impure, that indulges deludedly in the five desires, with male, female and other bodies. May I attain Pure Land’s body born of Dharma-Nature.’ This is the meaning of the practice of Revulsed Renunciation.
Second to understand is the practice of Joyful Aspiration. Again, there are two kinds.
First, understand the meaning of seeking rebirth [in the Pure Land of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)].
Second, contemplate that Pure Land’s magnificence and its other matters, and with a joyful mind, aspire for birth there.
Those who understand the meaning of rebirth [in Pure Land know] the reason to seek birth in Pure Land, is thus for the desire to save all sentient beings from suffering.
This is to be self-reflected, ‘I now am without power. If, in this evil period, when the conditions of afflictions are powerful, with myself bound by evil karma, I will sink and drown in the three paths, to pass through innumerable kalpas. Thus reborn, since beginninglessness, I have not rested. When then, will I be able to save suffering sentient beings?
Due to this, I seek birth in [the] Pure Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)], to be close to all Buddhas. If the Patience Of Non-Birth is realised, then will I be able to, within this evil period, save suffering sentient beings.’
Thus, the Rebirth Treatise says, ‘Speaking of giving rise to Bodhicitta, it is precisely the aspiration to become a Buddha. The aspiration to become a Buddha, is thus the aspiration to deliver sentient beings. The aspiration to deliver sentient beings, is thus the aspiration to gather sentient beings, for birth in the Buddha Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)].’150
Moreover, to aspire for birth in Pure Land, one must complete two practices.
First, one must leave far away, three kinds of dharmas that obstruct the Bodhi Door.151
Second, one must attain three kinds of dharmas that accord with the Bodhi Door.
What are the three kinds of dharmas that obstruct Bodhi?
First, rely on the Door Of Wisdom, to not seek self-happiness, thus leaving far away the mind of self with greed and attachment to oneself.
Second, rely on the Door Of Loving-Kindness And Compassion, to uproot all sentient beings’ suffering, thus leaving far away the mind of not bringing peace to sentient beings.
Third, rely on the Door Of Expedient Means. One should have compassion for all sentient beings, desiring to give them happiness, thus leaving far away the mind of seeking reverence and offerings for oneself.
If able to leave far away, these three kinds of Bodhi obstacles, it is thus to attain the three kinds of dharmas that accord with Bodhi.
First, is the undefiled pure mind, thus not for oneself seeking all kinds of happiness. As Bodhi is the undefiled pure abode, if for oneself seeking happiness, this defiles the body and mind, and obstructs the Bodhi Door. Thus, the undefiled pure mind accords with the Bodhi Door.
Second, is the peaceful pure mind, thus for uprooting sentient beings’ suffering. As Bodhicitta is the pure abode for bringing peaceful tranquillity to all sentient beings, if not aspiring to save all sentient beings, to enable their departure from the suffering of birth and death, this goes against the Bodhi Door. Thus, the peaceful pure mind accords with the Bodhi Door.
Third, is the blissful pure mind, thus desiring to enable all sentient beings to attain the Great Bodhi Of Nirvāṇa.152 As the Bodhi Of Nirvāṇa is the abode of ultimate and eternal bliss, if not aspiring to enable all sentient beings to attain ultimate and eternal bliss, this obstructs the Bodhi Door.
Of this Bodhi, with what cause is it attained? The essential cause is birth in [Amitā(bha) Buddha’s (Amituofo)] Pure Land, to constantly be with, and never leave Buddha[s]. After attaining the Patience Of Non-Birth, be within the lands of birth and death, to save suffering sentient beings. With compassion and wisdom harmonised within, to be in Samādhi, and yet constantly use it, with ease and without obstruction, this is Bodhicitta. This is the meaning of aspiration for birth there.
Second to understand, is the joyful mind to aspire for birth [in Amitā(bha) Buddha’s (Amituofo) Pure Land], which is to, with the mind of aspiration and reverence,153 give rise to contemplation of the characteristics of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo], be it his Dharma Body,154 or Reward Body155 et cetera.156
His golden bright light ‘has eighty-four thousand forms. Within each form are eighty-four thousand excellences. Each excellence radiates eighty-four thousand bright lights’, constantly illuminating the Dharma realm, to gather sentient beings who are mindful of [Amitā(bha)] Buddha [Amituofo].
Moreover, contemplate that Pure Land’s magnificent seven treasures and wonderful music et cetera, fully, as in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra [and the Contemplation Sūtra’s] sixteen contemplations et cetera.
Constantly practise the Samādhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha, generosity, upholding of precepts et cetera, and cultivate all good practices, thereafter dedicating all the meritorious virtues to all sentient beings, to be together born in that [Pure] Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)]. As such, one will definitely attain birth there. This is the meaning of the Joyful Aspiration Door.157
144 Realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, (asuras) and gods
145 Mahā Parinirvāṇa Sūtra 大般涅槃经: Discourse On The Great Final Enlightenment
146 Violent demonic ghosts who might cause sickness and disaster (or harmful parasites here)
149 Ten Thoughts (of body): (1) death (2) swelling (3) bruising (4) rotting (5) blood spilling and smearing (6) pus oozing with decay (7) being eaten by worms (8) breaking up (9) becoming bones (10) being cremated
150 … as Buddhahood is most swiftly attained via Pure Land for one and all
151 … to full awakening; supreme enlightenment; Buddhahood
152 Full awakening; supreme enlightenment; Buddhahood
153 … with utmost sincerity (wholeheartedness and single-mindedness)
154 Dharmakāya: The universal body of truth of all Buddhas that pervades all space and time
155 Magnificent and pure body from immeasurable merits (meritorious virtues)
156 … such as his immeasurable Manifestation Bodies
157 … or ‘practice of Joyful Aspiration’ (after practice of ‘Revulsed Renunciation Door’)
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