Home » Features » Should Buddhists Take Their Time Spiritually?

生死事大, 
光阴可惜。 
无常迅速,
时不待人。

— 寺院钟板文

Birth and death is a matter big,
and time available is regrettably little.
With impermanence swift,
time does not wait for one.

— Text On Temple Sounding Board

Some Buddhists seem to prefer to take their time when it comes to progress towards Buddhahood. They seem to be in no ‘hurry’ to advance spiritually, while they do learn the Dharma semi-randomly, and do some charitable good works, as part of their practice to make the world a better place. The sentiment is that, ‘Hey, all in good time… since the path to Buddhahood is long and takes many lifetimes. As long as I have some progress now, all is well.’

When asked where they aspire to be reborn, since they will not be liberated by the end of life at this rate, a common answer is that they will let their karma direct them accordingly, while not minding to return to this human world to continue spiritual progress. With some ‘diligence’, yet not with as much as possible, is this somewhat ‘reasonable’? Is such thinking and practice advisable for anyone?

First, although the above attitude and approach is ‘understandable’, in no teaching did the Buddha ever encourage them. In contrast, within many sūtras, he repeatedly reminded on the brevity and unpredictability of life, to urge all to exert more diligence in Dharma learning and practice now. He spoke of the astronomically low possibility of attaining this precious human rebirth again if life is led without mindful ethics.

Unfortunately, even if one is moral now, there is risk of becoming reckless in the immediate future life, when one reaps the positive karma of good done in the previous life. In fact, there is high risk of the well-to-do turning evil. Thus is it said that ‘for the rich and “honoured” to learn the path is difficult.’ (富贵学道难) With less suffering for a while due to ripening but depleting blessings, it is easy for them to forget impending re-ageing, re-sickness, re-death and rebirth.

With the Dharma learnt in this life naturally forgotten in the next, it is wishful thinking that there will be linear spiritual progress without repeated backsliding. While we should still safeguard this world, there should also be reality check with the Buddha’s teachings on the current Dharma-Ending Age. He spoke of the state of the world’s eventual worsening now, and never hinted of it becoming perfectly pure, not even when Maitreya Bodhisattva descends billions of years later.

Lastly, is the big misconception that Buddhahood is so distant that it is pointless to step on the gas now. It is only faraway if the circuitous Difficult Path (难行道) is trod, by not reaching Pure Land for the most exponentially swift progress to Buddhahood — in a single lifetime. Via training there to be proficient realised ones, we can all most efficiently purify other worlds. Why then, should we take our time? 

How can one who does not know how much time is left afford to take one’s time? How can one who cannot ensure continual diligence in the next life afford to not be diligent in this life?

— Shilashanti

Related Articles:

[1] With Every Breath You Take
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/04/with-every-breath-you-take
[2] Where Best To Go When This Life Ends?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/09/where-best-to-go-when-this-life-ends
[3] Why You Should Master The Pure Land Teachings Now
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2017/09/why-you-should-master-the-pure-land-teachings-now
[4] Are You ‘Recycling’ Yourself Every Three Lifetimes?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/08/are-you-recycling-yourself-every-three-lifetimes

[5] What If You Are Reborn Here Again?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2019/01/what-if-you-are-reborn-here-again
[6] Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of The Dharma’s Complete End
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https://purelanders.com/2019/06/10/sutra-in-which-the-buddha-speaks-of-the-dharmas-complete-end
[7] Is Our World Becoming A Pure Land Soon?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/12/is-our-world-becoming-a-pure-land-soon

[8] Where To Meet Amitābha Buddha & Maitreya Bodhisattva Together 
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[9] Is Seeking Birth In Pure Land Cowardly?
https://purelanders.com/2018/05/02/is-aspiring-for-birth-in-pure-land-cowardly
[10] Do Pure Land Aspirants Forsake Other Beings?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/03/do-pure-land-aspirants-forsake-other-beings
[11] Guru Rinpoche & Lama Tsongkhapas’s Exhortation To Reach Pure Land
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/10/guru-rinpoche-lama-tsongkhapass-exhortation-to-reach-pure-land 

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