When ‘Bad’ Things Happen To ‘Good’ People

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Verse On Heavy Karma With Heavier Retribution

All heavy evil karma,
without repentance,
without mindfulness of Buddha,
are all with heavier retribution
(with even more transgressions).

In the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng’s (净土宗十三祖印光大师) ‘Reply Letter To Layperson Zhōu Sòngyáo’《复周颂尧居士书》, who enquired about how even one who seems to be a diligent spiritual practitioner might ‘suffer much‘, he answered with the following example of Treatise Master Jièxián (戒贤论师)…

‘In the past, the Western Region’s Treatise Master Jièxián (i.e. Precepts’ Virtue: Śīlabhadra), was with virtues high for his whole life, with his practice of the path “shaking” India. Due to past evil karma thus, as his body suffered from a terrible sickness, with his suffering extreme, he was not able to bear it, and desired to kill himself. (昔西域戒贤论师,德高一世,道震四竺。由宿业故,身婴恶病,其苦极酷,不能忍受,欲行自尽。)

Just then, seeing Mañjuśrī, Universal Virtue and Contemplator Of The World’s Sounds, these three Bodhisattvas, saying, “You, within past kalpas, with many lives as kings, who maliciously harmed sentient beings, should for a long time fall into evil paths. Due to your great propagation of the Buddha’s teachings, thus with this human world’s little suffering, eliminating the suffering of long kalpas in hell, you should bear it. The Great Táng Dynasty has a monk named Xuánzàng. When passing three years, he will come here to receive the Dharma.” (适见文殊,普贤,观世音三菩萨降,谓曰:「汝往昔劫中,多作国王,恼害众生,当久堕恶道。由汝宏扬佛法,故以此人间小苦,消灭长劫地狱之苦,汝宜忍受。大唐国有僧,名玄奘,当过三年,来此受法。」)

When the Treatise Master Jièxián heard this, he thereupon endured the suffering with repentance. After a long time, he was thereupon healed. Reaching three years later, when Xuánzàng reached there, the honourable Master Jièxián ordered a disciple to speak of the conditions of his sickness and suffering. When that person was speaking of his suffering, as he was choking with sobbing and flowing with tears, it can be known that his suffering was very extreme. (戒贤论师闻之,遂忍苦忏悔,久之遂愈。至三年后,玄奘至彼,戒公令弟子说其病苦之状。其说苦之人,哽咽流泪,可知其苦太甚。)

[Note: It is possible to be without ‘tragic’ sicknesses and deaths. However, this extreme example reminds us that since most of us are not even great practitioners, we should not expect ourselves to be totally free from all sicknesses, to have the perfectly smooth departure from this life. And even if there is extreme suffering from sicknesses, before or during dying, we should never even entertain one thought of suicide, the committing of which, breaking the First Precept against killing life, would worsen suffering tremendously, by leaping ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ (of probable hell). There should only be all the more sincerely repentant and diligent practice of mindfulness of Buddha, to ‘dilute’ evil karma, and to more swiftly reach his Pure Land, if it is time.]

If not understanding the causes of past lives, people will say Jièxián was not a high monastic who attained the path. Perhaps will there be those saying that, “With these such great practitioners, still attaining these such ‘tragic’ sicknesses, the Buddha’s teachings can have what efficacious connections and benefits?” (使不明宿世之因,人将谓戒贤非得道高僧。或将谓:「如此大修行人,尚得如此惨病,佛法有何灵感利益乎?」)

You and others, in your minds within, with that known little, thus when slightly seeing “abnormal” forms, then give rise to fear and doubts. People without good roots, thereupon have retrogression of their path’s mind. If people who created evil appear to attain blessed rewards, this likewise thus gives rise to evil views’ mind.’ (汝等心中所知者小,故稍见异相,便生惊疑。无善根人,遂退道心。倘造恶之人现得福报,亦复如是起邪见心。)

Not knowing that all are with past causes as later effects, and (i) transforming of later retribution with heavier retribution, as present retribution with lighter retribution, and (ii) transforming of present retribution with lighter retribution, as later retribution with heavier retribution, and others, with all kinds of complexities not equal thus. (不知皆是前因后果,及转后报重报,为现报轻报,及转现报轻报,为后报重报等,种种复杂不齐之故也。)

[Note: (i) This refers to the principle of ‘dilution’ of evil karma with more good (and pure) karma. (ii) This refers to the principle of ‘dilution’ of good karma with more evil karma. For the full reply by the Great Master with more notes, see https://purelanders.com/2022/07/01/can-practising-buddhists-still-have-tragic-sicknesses-and-deaths.]



Verse On Heavy Karma With Lighter Retribution

All heavy evil karma,
all with repentance,
all with mindfulness of Buddha,
are all with lighter retribution
(with no more transgressions).

Related Articles:

How A Great Master Overcame Suffering From Terrible Sicknesses

Consolation For Those Suffering From Sickness

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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