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 INFINITE LIFE SUTRA COMMENTARY

EXCERPT FORTY-FOUR

People in this world are born from interrelated karmic causes. How long can one live? Unvirtuous people are not proper in their behavior and thoughts. They usually harbor evil intentions and their minds are constantly preoccupied with immoral lust. Restlessness fills their minds, and their exterior persona reveals wantonness. They waste away their family fortune. What they do is unlawful. Things that they should seek, they are unwilling to.



“People in this world are born from interrelated karmic causes.” Society is the phenomenon of living beings existing together. No one can live independently. People have to rely on one another. Therefore, when one thinks about oneself, one must also think about others.

“How long can one live?” A human life span is short. Life is fragile. In this world, ten years can pass without a person attaining anything. Truly, this is like a dream. The ancient Chinese said, “Since ancient times, few live to the age of seventy.” Now, although medicine has advanced and life spans seem to have lengthened, in Africa and many other places where the living environment is very bad, people die of hunger and babies lose their lives every day. If we take this into account, the average life expectancy is less than seventy years.

People have shared karma and individual karma. Some people cultivate good fortune, so they have a longer life span. But even if they live to one hundred, this is still a short time. Therefore, seeing through this and letting go will definitely be beneficial for us.

“Unvirtuous people are not proper in their behavior and thoughts. They usually harbor evil intentions and their minds are constantly preoccupied with immoral lust. Restlessness fills their minds, and their exterior persona reveals wantonness. They waste away their family fortune.” This part of the excerpt talks about those whose afflictions, karmic obstacles, and bad habits are very severe. These people’s thoughts and behavior are not proper. They usually harbor evil intentions, and the thoughts of lust never cease. Therefore, their desires burn inside them like a fierce fire and this shows in their appearance—“their exterior persona reveals wantonness.” The immediate retribution is “wasting away their family fortune.” Such people are called spendthrift children or prodigal children.

“What they do is unlawful.” This refers to ruining other people’s reputations and moral integrity. In ancient times, this was very serious. Today, people attach little importance to this, nevertheless it is an obstacle to one’s cultivation, personal happiness, and a safe society. If one truly believes in cause, condition, and retribution, one will naturally understand.

“Things that they should seek, they are unwilling to.” The Buddha said this with deep feeling. Instead of seeking and doing what we should, we are unwilling to do so. What should we be seeking? Transcending the cycle of birth and death. This is what we should seek. It is a great suffering to be in the cycle of birth and death. The Buddha showed us a path to transcend the cycle. If we believe him and follow this path, our wish will be fulfilled.

This excerpt talks about the evil of sexual misconduct. The gravest offense of all is killing; the greatest obstacle to one’s cultivation is sexual desire. These are two great obstacles. If in one’s cultivation one wishes to transcend this world, one will not be able to transcend the Three Realms without eradicating sexual desire.

Although the Pure Land method allows one to bring one’s residual karmas into the Western Pure Land, one must suppress one’s sexual desire, anger, and ignorance. This way, one will be sure of attaining rebirth there. If one cannot suppress them, then no matter how much one chants the Buddha-name, it is as an ancient Chinese said: “Even if one chants until one’s throat is hoarse, one’s chanting is still futile.” One will only form a good affinity with Amitabha Buddha, but one will not succeed in attaining rebirth in the Pure Land in this lifetime.




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