The Buddha said: “They plant the good roots, and they are unable to detach from form. They do not seek the Buddha’s wisdom. They are deeply attached to worldly pleasures and the good fortune of the human world. Although they repeatedly cultivate good fortune, the rewards they seek are in the human and heavenly paths. When they obtain the rewards, everything will be abundant, but they are unable to leave the prison of the Three Realms.”
“The Buddha said: ‘They plant the good roots, and they are unable to detach from form.’” This is cultivation with attachment to form. When one has wandering thoughts, discriminations, and attachments, and aspires to do good deeds, one will receive good rewards in the future. But having the thought of seeking the good fortune of the human and heavenly paths is a great obstacle.
“They do not seek the Buddha’s wisdom.” “Buddha’s wisdom” is mentioned in the previous excerpt: “You should understand and believe the supreme wisdom of all Buddhas.” To seek the Buddha’s wisdom is to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land. The Pure Land is “the supreme wisdom of all Buddhas.”
True wisdom is not to be sought. It is the complete understanding of everything. When the Buddha taught all beings, he answered questions as they were raised, without thinking or contemplating the answer. This is because true wisdom is the innate ability of the true nature. It is innate in the true nature and is not acquired from learning. This is why Ashvaghosha Bodhisattva taught us to be free of the mark of speech, the mark of terms, and the mark of mental cognition.
Being free of the mark of speech means not being attached to the words when one listens to the lectures on the sutras. Being free of the mark of terms means not being attached to terminology. Being free of the mark of mental cognition means not using the sixth consciousness to think and contemplate.
Listening to lectures on the sutras without being attached to the mark of speech, the mark of terms, and the mark of mental cognition is cultivating meditative concentration. Listening clearly and understanding perfectly is cultivating wisdom. Listening to the lectures on the sutras in this way is the simultaneous practice of meditative concentration and wisdom.
“They are deeply attached to worldly pleasures.” Being deeply attached to worldly pleasures is a hindrance that arises from afflictions. One is deeply attached to the Five Desires and the Six Dusts, and to riches and honor and is unwilling to let go of them. “Not seeking the Buddha’s wisdom” is a hindrance that arises from the attachment to knowledge. These two hindrances are extremely serious.
“Although they repeatedly cultivate good fortune, the rewards they seek are in the human and heavenly paths.” This is saying that if one truly observes the precepts and practices goodness, one will have the karmic result of being reborn in the human or heavenly path. If one practices good deeds but transgresses the precepts, one will have the karmic result of being reborn in the Three Evil Paths.
When one who practices good deeds but transgresses the precepts is reborn in the path of hungry ghosts, one will be a king of the ghosts or a deity. Generally the spirits that the Chinese people worship have great influence, are rich, powerful, and have many followers. If one is reborn in the animal path, one will be a pet in a wealthy family and enjoy good fortune in that path. These are examples of those who cultivate good fortune but transgress the precepts.
“When they obtain the rewards, everything will be abundant.” When one receives the good fortune in the human and heavenly paths, one may be a high government official, a general, or belong to a rich family. But which one of them has not created negative karmas or wronged people since ancient times? When one uses up one’s good fortune, one will probably go to the Three Evil Paths in the next lifetime. Even if one does not go to the Three Evil Paths, one will not be that rich in the human path. Each lifetime will become worse and worse than the previous one.
When we realize this, how can we not go to the Western Pure Land?
When we look at the conduct and actions of the powerful or influential people in today’s society, then we know that we do not want to come back to this human world again. If we do come to the human path again, we should come as a Buddha or a bodhisattva manifested as a being. If we do not come as a Buddha or a bodhisattva manifested as a being, it is still karmic retribution—this is terrible!
We should be constantly vigilant: enjoying the good fortune in the human path is very frightening, but enjoying the good fortune in the heavenly path is not the ultimate either. Although there are few opportunities for us to commit evil deeds in heaven, we will still fall into a lower path when the good fortune is used up. As it is stated in the Lotus Sutra: “There is no peace in the Three Realms, just like a house on fire.”