Bodhisattvas fear causes; living beings fear effects. It is not only living beings who cannot escape cause and effect; even the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot avoid them. However, because Bodhisattvas have far-ranging vision, they avoid creating bad causes and only receive joyful rewards. Living beings, on the other hand, are very short-sighted. Seeing only what's in front of them, they often plant evil causes, and so they must often suffer the bitter retribution.
It is said, “Plant more peach and plum trees, and fewer thorn bushes.” By planting more good causes, you will undoubtedly be laying out a golden future for yourself. But if you only see the present, and you engage in lots of immoral practices and plant no good causes, you will doubtlessly be preparing a thorny path to travel in the future.
What is the golden future? “Point to the distant setting sun in the West.” “To the west of here, passing a hundred thousand million Buddha-lands, is a land called Ultimate Bliss.”
What is the thorny future? “Hell has no gates; you bring suffering upon yourself.” In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the ground is made of gold and the pools are filled with the seven gems. Celestial music is carried by the breeze and heard everywhere, and everything goes according to your wishes. You can also see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, and quickly accomplish Buddhahood. What about the hells? Your best companions there are the Mountain of Knives, the Oil Cauldron, the Tree of Swords, and the Great Furnace.
Living beings are absolutely free to choose their own future. If you wish to be born in the West and you make a vow to that effect, you can accomplish it by vigorously reciting the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. If you prefer the hells, it's even easier─just do evil deeds and you'll fall into the hells for sure. But I can assure you of one thing: no one would prefer falling into the hells to being reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. That is, unless he doesn't believe in the hells and the Land of Ultimate Bliss, or he doesn't know that the hells are misery and the Pure Land is blissful.
If people have cut off their good roots or have little faith, there is no way for us to save them. But if it's a matter of not knowing, we should be compassionate. Other religions often say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is near. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to you.” We of the Buddhist faith should also forget our bodies for the sake of the Dharma, and hasten to tell our friends and relatives about the merit and virtue of reciting the Bodhisattva's name, and the benefits of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. “The Land of Ultimate Bliss belongs to living beings.” If you constantly proclaim this kind of principle, you are truly a Bodhisattva with a great mind for the Way. Those who walk the same path as the Bodhisattvas will have irreversible Bodhisattvas as their companions.
“Where there's a will, there's a way.” Although living beings are hard to save, we who are Buddhists must never forget to save living beings.
A talk given on the morning of June 18, 1958