Planting Blessings for Rebirth in Pure Land

A Talk given by Bhikshu Jin Gong, December 23, 2018

Venerable Master, Great Assembly, all good and wise knowing advisors, I am Jin Gong here to try to speak the Dharma for you. Your corrections are welcome.
I will speak to you of pure lands, but first I will speak of hell on earth, a hell from which many people were rescued. There have been many terrible tragedies in history; this one is one of the most horrible. I am talking about the country of Cambodia between the years of 1975 and 1979.

Cambodia had a population of about 8 million people in 1975. In the next four years, almost of a quarter of these people died. Most of the people died from being executed. The rest died of starvation. The entire country was a prison, guarded by fanatical soldiers that would kill anyone who tried to escape. The cities were emptied out and the residents were forced to work in the countryside as farmers. Professionals, teachers, businessmen, and former government officials were targeted for death. The farm workers were given small rations and very long hours of work. Many died from lack of food or from disease. A child of ten found a sweet potato in the ground. He was burned to death for stealing. A doctor was forced to treat government officials who were sick. Then he was killed, because he was a doctor.

There were over 400,000 ethnic Chinese in Cambodia in 1975. Four years later, over half of them had been killed. All religions were brutally suppressed. 50,000 Buddhist monks were killed. Cambodia has a long border with Vietnam. The Cambodian government at first forced the Vietnamese to leave. When there were 20,000 Vietnamese left, the Cambodian soldiers would kill them if they tried to leave. Most of these Vietnamese were executed. Cambodian soldiers made raids across the border and killed 30,000 Vietnamese civilians. Sometimes entire villages were destroyed. The Cambodian government said that their goal was to kill all 50 million Vietnamese. [In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia. The vicious government was overthrown and the slaughter stopped.]

It is not easy to get to a pure land, for the Cambodian refugees the journey was not easy. Although many died trying to flee Cambodia, some did manage to escape. If they got to the Vietnamese border, they were safe.

In the early days of its existence, CTTB had a refugee program. It was called the Buddhist Council [a short name for Buddhist Council for Refugee Rescue and Resettlement (BCRRR)]. The refugees would come to stay in what is now Bodhi House. Refugees would come from Asia to be resettled in the USA. We took in Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians. We would teach them basic skills like using the post office and government services. They learned about shopping and many learned how to drive and got drivers licenses. Then we sent them to locations all over the country where jobs were available.

While they were here, the children went to our Buddhist schools, and the parents had a chance to hear the Venerable Master give sutra lectures. Now compared to Cambodia, CTTB was the pure land. The refugees were free and safe, had enough to eat, and were able to hear the Dharma. I hope that we can ordain 50,000 monk and nuns here to make up for the 50,000 that were lost in Cambodia.

The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a good way station for us on our way to the Pure Land. We can find the Pure Land within our own minds, but first we have to overcome our bad habits. One bad habit is greed. I can remember as a child I was greedy around this time of year for Christmas presents. I was very greedy for Christmas presents.

At Christmas time, a mother came up with a plan to stop her young son from always fighting with a neighbor boy. She got on the phone and told the boy, “Santa Claus wants to talk to you.” The boy listened to the voice. He was told, “Santa Claus keeps track of every boy: Those who were naughty, doing things like fighting, will not get any presents at Christmas.” Then the mother asked her boy what Santa had said. The boy said, “Santa is not going to give that neighbor boy any presents. It serves him right for fighting with me all the time.”

We practice the Middle Way. We plan to eat only enough to sustain our bodies, Although I am severely tempted when something particularly delicious passes right in front of me.

Then there is the false joy of intoxication. When I did my first Chan Session, I had an interesting state. I felt great happiness for a time. But I thought this emotional happiness was great. I expected to have it every sit and every walk. I thought that this was the permanent joy of meditation and that it would never leave. I was greedy for this happiness and it went on all day. The next day I was very miserable. The joy was gone. These are the kinds of ups and downs that we seek to avoid in meditation. We want to be calm and concentrated, not wildly joyful one day and miserable the next.

Hatred and violence obstruct our journey to the pure land. We live in modern times, but modern science has not found a way to eliminate religious persecution. Christians are the most persecuted religion. Every year, 3000 Christians are killed because they are Christians.

Is there anyone we dislike so much that we do not want to see them in the pure land? This is an obstacle to our own purification, to our own lotus flower. The destruction of Buddha images is a form of killing. In Afghanistan, two huge Buddha images carved in the side of a mountain stood for many hundreds of years. The tallest was 174 feet--that’s 53 meters. The height of the ceiling of this hall is 20 feet. This image was about 9 times this height. The second Buddha carving was smaller--only six times the height of the ceiling. In 2003, a local militia spent two weeks to destroy these images with dynamite. I think there are far more Buddhists in the United States now than there are Buddhists in Afghanistan. So it would be appropriate to replace the lost Buddha images here in the United States. With modern technology, we can probably make them a bit larger than 174 feet tall.

Here is an excerpt from the Sutra on Making Buddha Images:
"People who make Buddha images will possess bright eyes and elegant looks in their after-lives…Any place in which people who make Buddha images are born will be void of any evilness. People who make Buddha images will be born to dignified families that excel any other families existent on earth; never will they be born to underprivileged families. Indeed such a fortune is attained by those who make Buddha images.

People who make Buddha images, in their after-lives, will be golden color in their physiques and be peerlessly refined.

People who make Buddha images will be born in their after-lives to affluent families, with wealth, money, and precious jewels in abundance beyond measure. They will also be cherished by their parents, siblings, and other relatives. Indeed such a fortune is attained by those who make Buddha images."

When people experience extreme weather, the cause is that they did not plant blessings. If we want people to have a wholesome and safe environment, we should encourage them to plant blessings. There is no other way to change the kind of climate that they live in now or will live in, in the future.

I have talked about two great ways of obtaining blessings: Making Buddha images and assisting in the ordination of monks and nuns. These actions and similar Buddhist actions are the best way to change our world’s environment. Helping political groups that claim to have ways to improve our environment will not work. We are Buddhists and we should deeply believe in the methods that sutras tell us about how to improve our world.

Modern people say that lust and desire is natural. They observe that all animals have this kind of desire. But animals are stupid. When animals can cure diseases like malaria, win Nobel prizes, or teach advanced physics, then we can admire the animals and copy their behavior. Common people are stupid, too. If we do not have self-control, we will indulge in all kinds of bad habits and destroy our bodies. Many people do not see the benefits of religion, but when people are religious, they can form communities of people who can keep from indulging in self-destructive behavior.

Buddhism takes us one step further. It not only teaches us to be healthy and proper in this life, but teaches us to end the disease of birth and death and be born in the Pure Land. Buddhism shows us the way, but we need to recognize our own faults and have a constant attitude of repentance. Other people may have faults. They may have very annoying and stupid faults, but it is useless to be like a camera and only look outward at others’ faults. It is not others’ faults, but our own faults that are keeping us from the Pure Land.

May we all understand the Buddhist sutras and commentaries and see the way to the Pure Land. May we all soon be together in the Pure Land.



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