Student: Making aspiration is well-mentioned in Buddhism. Although some people make vows based on the benefits of the human and deva realms, they cannot be accomplished easily. Is there no other way than Dharma practice?
Master Hsin Tao: There are two ways: samsara or liberation. Are you looking for continuous samsara or liberation? The latter prevents one from experiencing further suffering. But how did samsara come about? The Buddha already explained: Sentient beings are turned around in the six realms of samsara. A rebirth in the human realm results from the practice of the five precepts and the ten virtues. A rebirth in the asura realm results from extensive generosity and competition. An asura might have great merits with fierce jealousy. A rebirth in the deva realm results from virtues and charitable deeds. What about the rebirth in the three lesser realms? The primary cause of rebirth in the animal realm is ignorance. Whereas a strong aversion and much killing would lead to a rebirth in the hell realm. Hungry ghosts are greedy and stingy. They experience an insatiable desire. They are hungry even when there's enough food. They feel poor no matter how rich they are. They feel stripped although they have luxurious clothing. Hungry ghosts are occupied by an insatiable feeling.
We need to recognize how frightening the samsaric cause and effect is. Cause and effect are inseparable from our daily living. We often take the principle of karma too lightly to think that no consequences would follow our actions. As a result, we make mistakes, harm others, and commit lots of non-virtues.
Buddhadharma teaches us to stabilize our mind, set ourselves towards liberation, be free from burdens, and be at ease. We are very fortunate to practice Dharma. Seize it. Do not let it pass by. As we sow the seed of Dharma practice in this life, we can continue with the pursuit of future lifetimes. We can attain liberation at last. Dharma practice is to sow the seed for future opportunities in studying and disseminating Dharma. Through cultivation, we can enjoy the pure taste of Buddhadharma in lifetimes to come. Aspire with bodhicitta and take on the path towards Buddhahood. We carry on the activities in awakening the nature of oneself and guiding others. In this interactive network, we'd become the "awakened one" through Dharma practice in one lifetime after another.
Keep in mind "the precious encounter with Dharma and the rarity of human birth". It is a great bliss and fortune to be able to practice Buddhadharma. It isn't just knowledge but an experiential realization. We begin from training our minds to recognizing it. It is a gradual process of cultivation. When we recognize our very own mind, we'd be free from afflictions.
Pure Land vs. Saha