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Like it or not, life now is as if a giant escape room puzzle with minor puzzles within to escape from. Such escape is not from rightly due responsibilities, but from saṃsāric (娑婆) existence itself. It is the ultimate escape, for attaining both physical and mental liberation (身心解脱).

Like an escape room puzzle with four to five consecutive rooms, our mission is to escape from one karmic set of obstacles (业障) to the next, clearing one after another, with growth in blessings and wisdom (福慧). What not cleared, given up too soon will tend to haunt us life after life, with lessons yet to be learnt well.

Existentially, what we need is to escape from are the three realms (三界) – the realms of desire (欲界), form (色界) and formlessness (无色界). The escape route attempted solely with Self-power (自力) is vertical in nature, called the Difficult Practice Path (难行道).

First is to relinquish is the realm of desire, by renouncing the five desires (五欲) for wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep (财色名食睡), followed by the realm of form above, by renouncing attachment even to refined forms, and finally the realm of formlessness at the top, by renouncing even subtle states of impermanent mental bliss.

Vertical escape from the three realms (竖出三界) is tedious, not smooth-sailing, often with backsliding, both in this life and from life to life. We are likened to tiny worms attempting to burrow holes in the hard connecting segments of a bamboo stem’s hollows. Unlike escape rooms familiar with, it is possible to fall down from where one is, to a lower realm risen from – repeatedly.

Thank goodness is there the path of horizontal escape from the three realms (横出三界). From the realm of desire we are in now, with sincere mindfulness (念佛) of Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛), we can connect to his vast Other-power (他力), to escape sideways and directly, from all three realms, to reach his Pure Land (净土), where swift and complete liberation will be possible. This shortest of shortcuts is called the Easy Practice Path (易行道).

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