The Fourth Vow: To Regret Karmic Obstacles

Everybody has karmic obstacles. Every thought in a person’s mind causes a karmic act, which in turn will certainly result in an obstacle. What is obstructed? Our true nature, within which there is infinite wisdom and virtue. There are two types of obstacles: those caused by afflictions and those caused by knowledge-attachment. We create them constantly. The Buddha told us in the Flower Adornment Sutra “All beings have the Buddha’s wisdom and virtue but cannot attain them due to their wandering thoughts and attachments.” Like a doctor, the Buddha pointed out the root cause of our illness. Attachments are the root cause of afflictions and wandering thoughts are the root cause of knowledge-attachment. For all methods, learning and cultivating is simply a matter of doing away with our wandering thoughts and attachments. Once we do this, we will uncover our Buddha nature. All the methods in Buddhism teach us to regret our karmic obstacles. Thus, to regret karmic obstacles is the key to our cultivation.

However, it is very difficult to remove these obstacles. Of all the methods, that of the Pure Land is unique. For even if we have committed an extremely grave crime such as one of the Five Deadly Offenses and are thus destined to fall into the Avici Hell, we can still remove our obstacles and attain Buddhahood. We need to feel remorse, vow to change and practice Buddha Name Recitation and accord with the Buddha’s teachings to attain birth in the Pure Land. This is why Master Ciyun said that this recitation method alone is able to dispel obstacles, for they cannot be dispelled reciting sutras or mantras.

In the past few years there was a theory being circulated that said a person with remaining karma could not attain birth into the Pure Land. This greatly shocked and panicked Pure Land practitioners. When Master Chin Kung visited Los Angeles in 1984, he was asked if this was really true. Upon hearing the question, he smiled and said, “If it were true that no person with remaining karma could be born into the Pure Land, then the only person there would be Buddha Amitabha. What then is the use of going there?” The person who asked the question replied “Why?” Master replied, “Have you ever heard of the four lands, three kinds and nine grades in the Pure Land?” He replied that he had read of them in the sutras. Master told him, “If no one with remaining karma had been born into the Pure Land, why are there four lands, three kinds and nine level?” With this, he understood.

The division of lands, kinds and levels is based on the amount of remaining karma. With heavier karma, we are born into a lower grade; with light karma, a higher grade. Master then explained, “Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Manjushri Bodhisattva and Universal Worthy Bodhisattva are all Equal enlightenment Bodhisattvas. The sutras tell us that even Bodhisattvas of this high level still possess one degree of remaining ignorance. Isn’t this a karmic act?” The questioner was relived at Master’s words. So even an Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattva goes to the Pure Land with remaining karma. Buddha Amitabha is the only one without any karma. Master then concluded, “Who says that a person with remaining karma cannot be born into the Pure Land”! Master’s words seemed to help as the individual laughed merrily for he began to see that all beings in the Pure Land had gone there with their remaining karma.

Buddhism teaches us to not be angry or hold grudges against others. So Master added, “It is not wrong to advocate extinguishing karma for it is good to carry as little karma to the Pure Land as possible. In this way the person can attain birth into a higher level.”

Later, Master traveled to New York. As soon as he got off of the plane, he was asked the same question. people did not know the truth. As soon as he had explained, they understood that it was not wrong to have karma. extinguishing karma is good for it is feeling remorse for the obstacle.

Buddha Name Recitation is a sincere act of feeling remorse and vowing to change. However, when feeling remorse we must be sure that our heart is the same as Buddha Amitabh’s, our vow is the same as Buddha Amitabh’s and our behavior corresponds with that of Buddha Amitabha. How do we do this? with sincerity by not merely reciting with our mouth but with our heart. In this way, we will perfectly fulfill the teachings in the sutras. Only by doing so can it e said that we are true cultivators of the recitation method. Be sure that with every thought of “Amituofo” we have the same thought and vow as the Buddha. We need to turn his forty-eight vows into out own. Only in this way can we be rid of karmic transgressions.