Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra – Excerpt Four

[They] . . . cleansed dirt and pollution, and revealed cleanliness.

This excerpt is a metaphor. The purpose of our chanting the sutras and the Buddha-name is to cleanse the contamination in our character, thoughts, and views so as to “reveal cleanliness”—to restore a pure mind.

The full title of the Infinite Life Sutra is Buddha Speaks the Mahayana, Infinite Life, Adornment, Purity, Impartiality, and Enlightenment Sutra.

Purity, impartiality, and enlightenment are the guidelines for learning and practicing. What are we learning? We are learning to (1) cultivate a pure mind, (2) cultivate an impartial mind, and (3) be awakened and not deluded. Purity, impartiality, and enlightenment are one in three and three in one. The Pure Land school focuses on the cultivation of a pure mind. When the mind is pure, the land will be pure. The connection between us and Amitabha Buddha of the Western Pure Land lies in a pure mind.

In the present age, pollution is an extremely serious problem. The whole world is urgently calling for protection of the environment. Scientists also warn that if the pollution on earth is not abated, then in fifty years it will not be a fit place for the human race to live. From this we can see how serious pollution is.

Although many people try to reduce pollution, their efforts produce very little results. Why? Because they only know the phenomena—they do not realize the noumenon [the underlying root cause of pollution]. All the efforts for environmental protection provide only superficial solutions: they do not get to the root cause. What is the root cause? It is the polluted human nature—a polluted mind, polluted thoughts, polluted views, and polluted feelings. This kind of pollution is much more harmful than environmental pollution!

Twenty years ago, when I was at Mr. Fang Dongmei’s home one day, two officials from the Department of Education happened to be there on a visit. At that time, the Taiwan government was promoting the revival of Chinese culture. An official asked Mr. Fang, “Is there a method that can revive Chinese culture?” Mr. Fang looked very serious and was silent for several minutes. Then he said, “Yes, there is.” The officials happily asked him what the method was. He said, “The publication of all the newspapers and magazines in Taiwan must stop. All the television and radio stations must also shut down.” Upon hearing this, they shook their heads. “Impossible!” they said. Mr. Fang explained, “Newspapers, magazines, and television and radio programs are polluting the human nature and destroying traditional Chinese culture every day. As long as these things exist, efforts to revive Chinese culture will be ineffective.”

This is why I often urge Buddha-name chanting practitioners not to read newspapers and magazines or to watch television, in order to shield their pure mind.