Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra – Excerpt Forty-Eight

If in that environment, one can single-mindedly suppress one’s thoughts, correct one’s behavior and mind, have one’s deeds match one’s words, have one’s actions be of the utmost sincerity, do only good deeds, and commit no evils, then one will be liberated and obtain virtues and good fortune from these.

“If in that environment, one can single-mindedly suppress one’s thoughts.” “In that environment” refers to today’s evil world of the Five Corruptions, which is full of complications and vileness. The most important thing is to “single-mindedly suppress one’s thoughts.” All the evil thoughts must be subdued. This is where we start concentrating our efforts in our cultivation. What should we do when an evil thought arises?

The wondrous thing about the Pure Land method is the inconceivability of the merit of the Buddha-name. When an evil thought arises, we chant “Amituofo” to transform the evil thought into a thought of Buddha. We can also think about the wondrous merits of Amitabha Buddha or the various deeds of Amitabha Buddha, such as how he cultivated at the causal stage to establish the Western Pure Land to help all beings in the ten directions leave suffering forever behind and perfectly attain Buddhahood.

If we study the sutras well and concentrate on thinking about the magnificent direct and circumstantial rewards in the Western Pure Land, all wandering thoughts will cease. When we truly seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land and truly achieve in cultivation—when we are in this state—our every thought will be of Amitabha Buddha and the Western Pure Land. We will undoubtedly attain rebirth there. This is the best way to “single-mindedly suppress one’s thoughts.”

One should “correct one’s behavior and mind.” “Correct” means being upright, and following etiquette and laws. We need to follow all the teachings of the Buddha and practice accordingly. “Correct one’s mind” means that at all times, in all places, and in all situations, our every thought never deviates from “Namo Amituofo.” This is having proper thought.

If we do not have proper thoughts, we have evil thoughts. When there is improperness, there is evil. When there is neither proper nor improper thought, we fall into undefinable delusion. Delusion is ignorance. The retribution is rebirth in the animal path. We will not be able to transcend the Three Evil Paths. Therefore, it is very important to correct one’s behavior and mind.

One should “have one’s deeds match one’s words.” One should not say one thing and mean another.

“Have one’s actions be of the utmost sincerity.” One should be sincere when interacting with beings, engaging in tasks, and handling objects. One should not be afraid of being deceived or being taken advantage of. If one is not willing to be taken advantage of or to be deceived now, one will continue to transmigrate endlessly in the Six Paths, life after life, to repay or collect debts.

One should only use the true mind. One should have the same regard towards all beings, situations, and objects as one has towards the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. This way, one is truly generating the bodhi mind. The bodhi mind is a sincere mind. Whether chanting the Buddha-name or contemplating the magnificent direct and circumstantial rewards and merits of Amitabha Buddha, one should maintain a sincere mind. Even in daily life, one should also use a sincere mind. This is “generating the bodhi mind and single-mindedly focusing on chanting.”

“Do only good deeds, and commit no evils.” Learning Buddhism is learning to be awakened and wise, and not to do foolish things. When we see others make mistakes, we should try to skillfully and expediently remind them, alert them, or advise them. When we do good deeds, we must do so earnestly and not fear that others will laugh at us or obstruct us. Good deeds are beneficial to society.

As to “commit no evils,” not only do we not do any evil deed, we should not even give rise to any evil thought.

“One will be liberated and obtain virtues and good fortune from these.” Who liberates whom? One liberates oneself. It is truly as stated: “The Buddha did not liberate the beings.” The Buddha only explained the truth to us. When we understand, we have to walk the path ourselves.