To Stay In This Defiled Land Or Reach A Pure Land? 留在秽土或往生净土?To Personally Reach Pure Land First Or Encourage Others To Reach Pure Land First? 先自生净土或劝生净土?


— 释迦牟尼佛

With peaceful patience not moving, similar to the great earth. With calm contemplation deep and meticulous, similar to a secret treasury.

— Śākyamuni Buddha
(Earth Treasury‘s Ten Wheels’ Sūtra)

In Earth Treasury Sūtra’s《地藏经》Fourth Chapter On Jambudvīpa Sentient Beings’ Karmic Connections (阎浮众生业感品第四), this is taught — ‘At that time, Earth Treasury (i.e. Kṣitigarbha) Bodhisattva Mahāsattva to (Śākyamuni) Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) said, ‘World-Honoured One, I, receiving the Buddha Thus Come One’s majestic supernormal powers thus, everywhere in a thousand million koṭis of worlds, divide this body’s forms, to save all sentient beings with karmic retribution. If not with the Thus Come One’s great loving-kindness’ power thus, I am then not able to create these such transformations. I now, again receiving the Buddha’s entrustment, until Ajita (i.e. Maitreya Bodhisattva [弥勒菩萨]) who will accomplish Buddhahood has already come (about 5.7 billion years later), will have the six paths’ sentient beings, sent and enabled, to be delivered and liberated. It is so, World-Honoured One. May you not have worries.’ (尔时,地藏菩萨摩诃萨白佛言:「世尊!我承佛如来威神力故,遍百千万亿世界,分是身形,救拔一切业报众生。若非如来大慈力故,即不能作如是变化。我今又蒙佛付嘱,至阿逸多成佛已来,六道众生,遣令度脱。唯然,世尊,愿不有虑。」)

Even as a Great Bodhisattva (大菩萨), Earth Treasury Bodhisattva rides upon the Buddha’s power (佛力) to maximise the power and quantity of his manifestations (化身) in innumerable places, to deliver many sentient beings at the same time. This reminds us that with firm connection to a Buddha via mindfulness of Buddha (念佛), there will be empowerment with the Buddha’s supernormal powers. Such is especially so for all who have reached Āmítuófó’s (阿弥陀佛: Amitā[bha] Buddha) Pure Land (净土) with mindfulness of his name.

According to Āmítuófó’s Twenty-Second Vow Of Bodhisattvas Attaining The Position Of One Life To Replacement (第二十二:菩萨一生补处愿) in the Immeasurable Life Sūtra’s《无量寿经》Seventh Chapter On Giving Rise To Great Vows (发大誓愿第七), which emphasises ease to most greatly practise the Bodhisattva path anywhere, ‘… other directions’ Buddha lands’ all Bodhisattva assemblies, who come to be born in my land, will ultimately and definitely reach the Position Of One Life To Replacement (i.e. be ready to manifest Buddhahood). Excluded are those with fundamental vows, who with ease at places manifest, for sentient beings thus, wear the armour of great vows, accumulate and amass virtuous roots, to deliver and liberate all. Travelling to all Buddha lands, cultivating Bodhisattva practices, and making offerings to the ten directions’ all Buddha Thus Come Ones. Inspiring and transforming Ganges’ sands of immeasurable sentient beings, enabling them to be established on the unsurpassable right and true path, surpassing practices of ordinary peers of all grounds, manifesting in the present, cultivating of the virtues of Universal Virtue Bodhisattva (who represents perfect Bodhisattva practices)…’ (… 他方佛土诸菩萨众,来生我国,究竟必至一生补处。除其本愿自在所化。为众生故,被弘誓铠,积累德本,度脱一切。游诸佛国,修菩萨行,供养十方诸佛如来。开化恒沙无量众生,使立无上正真之道,超出常伦诸地之行,现前修习普贤之德。…)

It is thus a false dichotomy to assume that one must either remain in this defiled land (秽土) to practise the Bodhisattva path (菩萨道), or take rebirth in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land to advance on the Buddha path (佛道). The truth is, since the Bodhisattva path is also the path to Buddhahood, it is one with the Buddha path. Just as to be born here does not mean one must remain here, to be born in the Pure Land does not mean one must remain there either. The Pure Land is after all, a spiritual school for learning and practising the Dharma, for actualising it elsewhere, including here.

There is often impractical ‘romanticism’ with misunderstanding, thus wishing to ’emulate’ Earth Treasury Bodhisattva ‘directly’, wanting to stay in this defiled land life after life to ‘deliver’ others here. However, such persons are still personally not delivered (i.e. liberated), likely to forget this aspiration in the very next life – just as we have already forgotten our past lives’ aspirations in this life. (In contrast, we will recollect all past lives in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land.) To qualify for the Buddha’s entrustment to take care of all sentient beings here is not so easy after all, what more if one lacks training via a Buddha directly, in his Pure Land. In this Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期), if not practising to reach Pure Land for spiritual upgrading, most will have spiritual backsliding, ending up as the very six paths’ sentient beings who need to be delivered by other Bodhisattvas, including Earth Treasury Bodhisattva! We should only relieve the Bodhisattvas’ burden; not add to it.

There is also the misconception that one must first reach Pure Land, to be able to guide others to Pure Land. It is possible to learn and practise the Pure Land teachings well, to successfully encourage others to likewise learn and practise them, with them reaching Pure Land before one does. In fact, it is only with the great skilful means of the Pure Land teachings, that ordinary beings (凡夫) like us, riding on the Buddha’s extraordinary vows, can definitively facilitate his deliverance of sentient beings. Upon reaching the Pure Land, all will definitely be liberated, and with training there, be able to function like Earth Treasury Bodhisattva.

In fact, according to the Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva《佛说地藏菩萨经》, Earth Treasury Bodhisattva also guides beings TO Āmítuófó’s Pure Land and IN the Pure Land – ‘If there are those… mindful of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’s name, these persons will definitely attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss. These persons, on the days they renounce their lives, will have Earth Treasury Bodhisattva personally come to welcome them, and always be able to be with Earth Treasury Bodhisattva together in one place.’ (若有人… 念地藏菩萨名,此人定得往生西方极乐世界,此人舍命之日,地藏菩萨亲自来迎,常得与地藏菩萨共同一处。)


— 释迦牟尼佛

With rebirths in the five paths, even temporarily without rest, once moving, passing dust motes of kalpas, with confusions’ and obstacles’ difficulties. Like fish swimming into nets, they will think they have reached long flowing waters. Liberating and entering, temporarily exiting, also again encountering the nets.

— Śākyamuni Buddha
(Earth Treasury Sūtra)

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