From your letter, I see that you are diligently fighting bad habits but have not yet obtained results. This is because you are not truly concerned about the issue of Birth and Death, nor have you internalized the method that helps people to “transcend the human realm for that of the saints,” sever delusive karma and achieve pure thoughts. This is why you have failed to achieve true results.
You should always ponder this truth: “It is difficult to be reborn as a human being, it is difficult to learn of the Buddha Dharma, it is difficult to encounter the Pure Land method. I am fortunate today to be reborn as a human being and am in the favorable position of having learned about the Pure Land method. How dare I waste this limited lifespan on evanescent form, fragrance, fame and fortune? How can I resign myself to an empty life and useless death, wallowing along the Six Paths—with no end in sight?
You should paste the word “death” on your forehead, so that when you meet with various circumstances unworthy of attachment, you will immediately recognize them as boiling cauldrons and firepits that can only harm you. In this way, you will not be like a moth, freely choosing to fly into the flames and burning to death.
You should realize that worthwhile activities are a boat of compassion to rescue you from suffering. Thus, you will no longer shy away from activities for charity and justice nor be dilatory on the path of cultivation. In this manner, mundane circumstances can also become conditions for entering the Way, as cultivation is not synonymous with abandoning all worldly activities. If the mind is firm and not swayed by circumstances, “mundane concerns are precisely liberation.” Therefore the Diamond Sutra always teaches “non-attachment to form.” Although true cultivators develop the aspiration to resue al sentient beings, they do not see themselves as the rescuers or sentient beings as the rescued. Even when Supreme Enlightenment is attained, there is not mark of who has attained the fruits of Ultimate Nirvana. This is true cultivation of the Bodhisattva path.
On the other hand, even rescuing sentient beings or cultivating the ten thousand virtues cannot be in accord with the True Mark Supreme Vehicle unless practitioners realize that sentient beings are, in their nature and essence, Buddhas. Amid Equal Nature, sentient beings erroneously develop the mind of discrimination, turning “unconditioned” benefits or merits into “conditioned” merits. How, then, can they escape the binding cycle of form, fame and fortune?
Living in this world, people all have obligations. However, you should not take on unecessary activities beyond your normal duties. Instead, use your free time according t your cacacities and circumstances, to recite sutras and the Buddha’s name, determined to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. You can generate merits and virtues by contributing financially to worthwhile activities or by praising those who engage in them. You can also accrue merits by developing a mind of joy and contentment at their accomplishment by others.
All such merits and virtues should be dedicated as additional aids to rebirth in the Pure Land. It is like a boat which not only sails with the wind but also has oarsmen to speed it on its way. How can it fail to return swiftly to the shore?
The last day of the twelfth month is the end of the year. If by that day you have not made advance preparations, how can you avoid your creditors? The time of death is precisely the last day of the twelfth month of a life; if you are not ready with the personal provisions of Faith, Vows and Practice, and are still filled with the evil karma of greed, anger and delusion, those whom you have wronged, your creditors from time immemorial, will come pushing and shoving one another for repayment. Those who are unaware of the Pure Land method can do nothing but follow their evil karma, while even Pure Land practitioners who do not cultivate truly and earnestly sink into evil realms, mired in the cycle of Birth and Death for eons and eons.
The key to escaping suffering is to develop, in each and every thought, a fear of death and of perdition along the Evil Paths after death. Buddha Recitation then naturally grows more earnest, rebirth in the Pure Land is assured and no worldly dusts can “plunder” correct thought.
The Heart Sutra states:
The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara clearly perceived that the five skandas (encompassing body and mind) are all empty and thus overcame all suffering.
The five skandas encompass body and mind as well as the external environment. If we truly realize that they are empty, we are already free of them—even while remaining a part of them. What, then. Is not the Great Liberation method, the realm of Great Nirvana?