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 INFINITE LIFE SUTRA COMMENTARY

EXCERPT FORTY-NINE

Trivial matters can develop into matters of great angst and extreme severity. This is all due to a desire for wealth, lust, and an unwillingness to give. Each one thinks of nothing but one’s own enjoyment and disregards what is right or wrong. Compelled by ignorant desires, people want to benefit themselves and compete for gains. During the time of enjoying rank and riches, they cannot endure insults and do not cultivate virtuous deeds. Power and influence will not last long and will soon disappear. The law of nature will prevail and will eventually set things right.



“Trivial matters can develop into matters of great angst and extreme severity.” This sentence is a general statement. “Trivial matters” refers to minor delusions. These will gradually become great evils if we do not awaken in time. Hatred very often starts as a very tiny, trivial grudge. In “great angst and extreme severity,” “angst” refers to tribulation and “severity” refers to harsh vengeance.

We should see through this and not take things to heart. If in our interaction with others we suffer minor unjustified treatment, we should not take it too seriously, get attached to it, or mind it. We should absolutely not harbor any thought of vengeance.

“This is all due to a desire for wealth, lust, and an unwillingness to give.” This points out the root cause of the predicament of the beings in the Six Paths. In many of our past lifetimes, we learned Buddhism, chanted the Buddha-name, and made offerings to and served infinite Buddhas. Why have we not been able to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land? Because we cannot let go! After infinite kalpas of cultivation, we are unable to succeed, done in by wealth and lust. If we still cannot completely let go of them in this lifetime, we will continue to stay in the cycle of birth and death.

“Each one thinks of nothing but one’s own enjoyment.” One craves wealth. One is lustful. One does not practice giving. One fusses over one’s enjoyment.

One “disregards what is right or wrong.” One cannot tell proper from improper, right from wrong, and good from bad.

“People want to benefit themselves and compete for gains.” They are selfish. They scramble for fame and gain.

“The time of enjoying rank and riches” cannot last forever. Moreover, when one depletes one’s wealth and prestige, evil karmas will come forth.

“They cannot endure insults.” If the rich and prestigious are moderate in their enjoyments and are frugal, their endurance will enable them to maintain their wealth. If they live thriftily and practice giving, their good fortune will last for a long time. Cultivating good fortune and accumulating merits while enjoying one’s wealth—this is the right thing to do. If they cannot restrain themselves and quickly deplete their wealth, their good fortune will soon be used up.

They “do not cultivate virtuous deeds.” When people are in an environment where they are enjoying a good life, it is very easy for them to be deluded and thereby lose their true nature. They cannot restrain themselves and are unwilling to do good deeds. They commit offenses.

“Power and influence will not last long.” The time during which they can dominate others is very short. It “will soon disappear.”

“The law of nature will prevail and will eventually set things right.” “The law of nature” refers to principles of morality. “Will eventually set things right” refers to the ways of the world. “Set things right” is commonly known as feeling the prick of conscience. In Buddhism, this is called consciousness.

Those who often do good deeds have minds and behavior that are virtuous. Those who often commit evil deeds have minds and behavior that are evil. Good deeds will bring about good retributions; bad deeds will bring about bad retributions. Retributions will occur naturally. They are not controlled by spirits, deities, God, Buddhas, or bodhisattvas. Karmic results take place naturally.




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