Departure and Reincarnation
When the Buddha starts to preach, he talks about suffering. He puts sufferings in the front, not because he wants to scare us, but help us to recognize the fact in the world. Only when we can clearly see the fact and face the fact, we can then solve the problem, break through it, transcend it, and eventually attain emancipation.
It is just like a situation in which a fierce dog is barking at you and wants to bite you. If you turn back and run now, you must be bitten. However, if you face up to the challenge, the dog will run away.
We are facing various sufferings “within the agitated three domains (Kāmadhātu or domain of desire, Rūpadhātu or domain of form, and Arūpadhātu or domain of formless) that look alike a burning house”, and various sufferings derived from the reincarnation within the Six Realms. We have to face up to those sufferings, and seek the ways of emancipation.
“If a person has sincere mind, the Buddha will respond”. If we pursue sincerely, we shall eventually find a wonderful prescription that solves our problem. On the contrary, if we don’t know about sufferings, and don’t know how to keep sufferings away, we will bear the endless sufferings forever. Why?
Since our life only lasts for a few decades, our happiness or sufferings—no matter to what degree—won’t last long but just a few decades. At the end of this life, however, it is not once and for all. Waiting for us is the endless reincarnation within the Six Realms. Would it mean that we are moving from a state of temporary suffering to a state of much longer, greater and boarder sufferings?
The way to relieve the sufferings from the Three Domains and the Six Realms actually is not located in heaven, but in our human world. So, we must well manage our life, and pursue the eternal emancipation.
If a person is not aware of the existence of the Three Domains and the Six Realms, and does not believe that there are the good and bad retributions being governed by the Law of Cause and Effect in the three periods of time, he will think that man will live his life only once, and no afterlife. He also thinks man dies once, and there is nothing after death, and no such a thing as reincarnation. He confines his life to the present one, and hence spends his whole life to pursue ways to make his present life happy.
However, if he believes the cause and effect in the three periods of time, and good and bad retributions, reincarnation within the Six Realms, and if he understands that life is impermanent, temporarily short, and full of various kinds of afflictions and sufferings, he will diligently seek for eternal emancipation for the future in order to depart from suffering and attain happiness forever in his short life.
Because of having past lives, here we have the present life. If there is no past life, we don’t have the present life now. If we were not liberated, we will continue to have future life, and it will never end.
However, if we allow Amitabha Buddha to deliver us, we will have no more past, present and future. It is because life is eternal once we are reborn in the Land of Bliss. There is no aging, no illness, no death, no reincarnation within the Six Realms forever; but paranormal power and freedom. We can come back to the Six Realms, at our wish, to deliver our parents, siblings, wives, daughters, and sons, as well as relatives and dependents in our past lives.
Are the so-called karmic obstruction of affliction and reincarnation within the Six Realms true or false? Both are false, just like dreaming. Is happiness and suffering in a dream true or false? It’s false too.
However, to a person who has not wakened, the dream continues on and on. Once awakened, he can see that those people in the dream are clearly inverted, false, and unwarranted. It is described in the saying, “Clearly there exists the Six Realms in the dream, but nothing is there after awakened except emptiness”.
We sentient beings are ill. Sicknesses such as affliction, jealousy, reckoning, differentiating, and grasping (being unable to let go), in the eyes of people with a relatively calm mind, are unwarranted.
Buddha-nature exists originally, and does not need to be sought for. It exists universally: you and I have it; celestial beings, human beings, hell beings, ghosts, and animals also have it. It is eternal because it will not change, or disappear. Owing to obstructions caused by our greed, hatred, and delusion, the Buddha-nature is unable to be revealed. Furthermore, it is dragged by the karmic forces into the endless cycle of reincarnation within the Six Realms, like a turning wheel with no beginning and no end-point: sometimes in heaven, sometimes in the womb of a donkey or the belly of a horse, and sometimes in hell or in the ghostly realm.
For sentient beings trapped in this wheel of reincarnations, they will keep wandering in the cycle, and keep suffering endlessly, unless they have revitalized their Buddha-nature.
The goals of studying Buddhism are liberation from the cycle of reincarnations and achievement in Buddhahood. In this respect, the true study of Buddhism should be recitation of Amitabha's name, as well as believing and accepting Amitabha’s compassionate deliverance; otherwise, it is not perfect and complete, even though we have studied Buddhism. Why? It is because we haven’t been liberated from the cycle of reincarnations.
Our physical body remains staying in this world, and we haven’t been reborn in the Land of Bliss yet. So, it is inevitable for us ordinary beings to crave and attach to family members and all other things. Moreover, it is impossible for us to subdue and eliminate greed, anger and delusion due to the so-called delusion of views and delusion of volition, also other fine delusion of worldly afflictions and ignorance. Nevertheless, we must clearly understand that no matter under what circumstance, we must attain rebirth in the Land of Bliss.
The reason why we have life is not because we have this body, but because of Alaya Consciousness that stores all the good and evil deeds of three kinds of karma in the past lives. The storage actually consists of greed, anger, delusion, arrogance and doubt, in which the majority is evil, greatly outnumbers the good.
Subsequently, we come and go, up and down within the Six Realms.
If there was no greed, anger, delusion, arrogance and doubt in our Alaya Consciousness since the numerous eons, we would have sublimated and transmigrated beyond the Three Domains and the Six Realms.
The reason why we seek help, to find a completely stable and reliable support is due to the fact that we all have sinful karma, we will all fall into the Three Wretched Realms, and we will all be caught in the Six Realms of rebirth. Therefore, we must rely on a wonderful, splendid, yet easy Dharma teaching that will prevent us from entering into the Six Realms again and allow us to stay in peace forever.
Ordinary beings in the Three Domains naturally float and sink within the Six Realms with their karma, and naturally receive the retribution of happiness and sufferings accordingly. Hence, the nature we see today is actually the manifestation of the common karma of ordinary beings. We are still in the Three Domains and should stay away.
The patriarch Master Tanluan said that the Three Domains are “unreal, defiled, inverted, destructive, cyclic, and endless”, “the Three Domains are the dark house where ordinary beings flow [along the cycle of reincarnation]”, and “the Three Domains are born out of the flawed and deviant way [of karmic practices], in which sentient beings stay sleeping with a big dream, not knowing to get out.”
The so-called “world” covers all Three Domains [i.e. the Realm of Sensuous Desire, the Realm of Form, and the Realm of No-Form]. The Five Precepts for human beings, the Ten Wholesome Acts for the celestial beings, and even the meditative concentration for practitioners in the Dhyana heavens of the Form Realms and the Formless Realms are still [practices for] rebirth in the Six Realms. All these are wholesome karma in the eyes of ordinary beings.
However, in comparison with the practice that believes and accepts Amitabha’s deliverance, aspires to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, and attains rebirth in the Land of Bliss through Amitabha-recitation, those wholesome karmas become unwholesome, and are not genuine wholesome acts.
Unless there were no retribution for good and evil karma and no reincarnation within the Six Realms, if there are, we can take it as a mirror to reflect on ourselves. Then, we will see that we have little hope for emancipation, and the flame of hell has already been burning our foot, and we will certainly fall into hell.
If a practitioner cannot liberate themselves from reincarnation of birth-and-death, or be reborn in the Land of Bliss eventually, he will recycle to and fro within the Six Realms. The past ignorance results in the present retribution. The present karma will induce the future reincarnation. He will do good acts and get some merits if he comes across good karmic conditions; he will practice if he comes across the causal conditions in practices; he will do evil acts if he comes across evil karmic conditions. Above all, he will come and go within the Six Realms.
For sentient beings living in the Saha World of Five Turbidities, the state of suffering and joy that they get differs in thousands of ways because their karma— karma of deed, word, and thought are mixed and complicated, different in thousands of ways.
Born in the human world, there are so-called “Four Sufferings”, “Eight Sufferings”, mental sufferings, physical sufferings, and environmental sufferings. Sufferings in each of the Six Realms are different too. So comes the saying “ten thousand grades of suffering and joy”.
For unwholesome karma, there are ten unwholesome/evil deeds [i.e., killing, stealing, adultery, lying, double-tongue, coarse language, filthy language, covetousness, anger, perverted views]; for wholesome karma, there are ten wholesome/good deeds [i.e., not killing, not stealing, not committing adultery, not lying, not speaking harshly, not speaking divisively, not speaking idly, not being greedy, not being angry, not having wrong views]. Among all these karma, each of them has its own weight--heavy or light.
Hence, the retributions differ, which include, say, the four modes of birth [i.e., viviparous, as with mammals; oviparous, as with birds; moisture, or water-born, as with worms and fishes; and metamorphic, as with moths and others], the ten thousands grades of sufferings and joys, and certain number of family dependents. This is the situation of the Saha World.
Life is suffering and there are million kinds of them. Instances of the greatest sufferings include: unhappy marriage, inharmonious family, and troublesome children. We should know these are results of various causal conditions, and some are your creditors. Nevertheless, the most fundamental suffering is being caught in the various realms of rebirth. So, we should aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land; otherwise, sufferings in the future will continue endlessly.
Not knowing reincarnation of the Three Domains and the Six Realms, nor the retributions of good and bad deeds, a person lives in a trance. If he knows, he will feel uneasy. This kind of uneasiness is difficult to describe. The more you know about the Buddhist teachings, the more you have in your mind about the truth that “birth-and-death is a great matter, and death comes in a flash”.
The Lotus Sutra says, “There is no peace in the Three Domains, like the house on fire, filled with various sufferings. It is extremely horrible!”
All unhappy and happy things in this world are relative, not absolute. Joy is the cause of suffering. Once stop breathing, the next life begins. We will then receive retribution, reborn in one of the four modes of birth within the Six Realms in accordance with our karma. As we cannot escape from the cycle of reincarnation, we must fall to hell. If we recognize the pain suffered in hell, we will not have a moment of ease. If we understand deeply the impermanence of life, we must earnestly wish to leave [the cycle of birth-and-death].
Common people in the world want to pursue wealth, complete high education, and seek for boundless knowledge. However, no matter how high his academic qualification and how knowledgeable he is, the Buddha will call him a fool if he does not believe in retributions resulted from good and evil karma, and is ignorance about the Law of Cause and Effect of the past, present and future, and ignorance about reincarnations within the Six Realms.
On the contrary, even if a person is not educated, illiterate, and has no culture, the Buddha will give him a thumbs up and praise him as a wise person if he believes in retributions resulted from good and evil karma, the Law of Cause and Effect of the past, present and future, and reincarnations within the Six Realms, and he also seek ways and prepare himself for liberation from reincarnations within the Six Realms.
Passing a day in life means getting a day closer to hell. No matter how successful and famous in career, he will still have to meet with Yama King after death, and continue to reincarnate. Helping him merely with physical means and relief is a kind of worldly kindness and compassionate love.
If we take one step further, let him be liberated from reincarnation, and not to repeatedly suffer from the cycle of birth-and-death, or even let him become a Buddha so that he can be liberated from reincarnation forever. Would not this be the greatest kind of compassion? Would not this be the greatest kind of wisdom? Therefore, from this point of view, those who propagate the Pure Land teaching can be said having great compassion and great wisdom.
The purpose of cultivation is liberation from the cycle of birth-and-death. If this matter remains unresolved, the risk will be very high. If we cannot leave the cycle of reincarnation, we will inevitably fall. As long as we have not left the cycle of reincarnation, we will inevitably fall into the Three Wretched Realms life after life in the future.
Everyone can recite Amitabha’s name, and everyone can be reborn [in the Land of Bliss]. All sentient beings are like creatures in the great ocean, while Amitabha Buddha a huge net—there is no fish that can escape the net.
All sufferings in our life are resulted from greed, anger and delusion. Anger is like fire, and greed is like water, so Shakyamuni Buddha described the world of the Three Domains as a ‘house on fire’, and that of the Six Realms is a ‘sea of suffering’. From the hell to the highest heaven, everywhere is the suffering sea and full of flames. Our Saha World can be said to be filled with various sufferings, but how about the Land of Bliss then?
The Amitabha Sutra says, “Why is that land called 'Land of Bliss'? The inhabitants in that land suffer no pain but only enjoy pleasures of various kinds. For this reason, that land is called"Land of Bliss”.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings