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How to Ensure Non-Retrogression of the Mind

A Pure Land treatise on the Buddha Recitation Samadhi has explained the "ten practices of non-seeking" to eliminate the ten major obstacles encountered by practitioners on the path to Enlightenment. These ten major obstacles encompass all obstructions and impediments. Therefore if we follow the ten non-seeking practices, all obstacles will disappear. These ten practices are:
  1. We should not wish that our bodies be always free of diseases and ailments, because a disease-free body is prone to desire and lust. This leads to precept-breaking and retrogression.
  2. We should not wish that our lives be free of all misfortune and adversity, lest we be prone to pride and arrogance. This leads us to be disdainful and overbearing towards everyone else.
  3. We should not wish that our mind cultivation be free of all obstacles because, in such a case, our knowledge would be exceptional. This leads to the transgression of thinking that we have awakened, when in fact we have not.
  4. We should not wish that our cultivation be free of demonic obstacles, because our vows would not then be firm and enduring. This leads to the transgression of thinking that we have attained Enlightenment, when in fact we have not.
  5. We should not wish that our plans and activities meet with easy success, for we will then be inclined to thoughts of contempt and disrespect. This leads to the transgression of pride and conceit, thinking ourselves to be filled with virtues and talent.
  6. We should not wish for gain in our social relations. This leads us to violate moral principles and see only the mistakes of others.
  7. We should not wish that everyone, at all times, be on good terms and in harmony with us. This leads to pride and conceit and seeing only our own side of every issue.
  8. We should not wish to be repaid for our good deeds, lest we develop a calculating mind. This leads to greed for fame and fortune.
  9. We should not wish to share in opportunities for profit, lest the mind of delusion arise. This leads us to lose our good name and reputation for the sake of unwholesome gain.
  10. When subject to injustice and wronged, we should not necessarily seek the ability to refute and rebut, as doing so indicates that the mind of self-and-others has not been severed. This will certainly lead to more resentment and hatred.
Thus, we can see that life, while full of obstacles and impediments, can be summarized in ten points:
  • Sickness of the body
  • Misfortune and adversity
  • Hindrances and impediments to cultivation
  • Demonic obstacles to fulfillment of vows
  • Failure in activities and undertakings
  • Indifferent or treacherous friends
  • Opposition from many quarters
  • Hostility in return for good deeds
  • Loss of wealth and reputation
  • Subjection to injustice and wrongs.
Thus, in merit there is misfortune, in misfortune there is merit, in freedom there are obstructions, in obstructions there is freedom. Realizing this, cultivators in the past have used "obstacles as conditions for progress." They have said, "If others do not bother and disturb us, success in the Way is difficult to achieve." This is because contempt, slander, calamity, injustice and all other obstacles are the "yardsticks to measure the practitioner's level of attainment." Remaining patient and calm in the face of such impediments, the cultivator demonstrates that he has reached a high level of practice. If it were not for these obstacles, how could his level of attainment be measured? In truth, it is not that the practitioner seeks obstacles and impediments, but that he must be ever-vigilant, for the Way is full of dangerous and unforeseen events. He should prepare himself for all eventualities so that when faced with actual obstacles, he can remain calm and unruffled. An Elder Master once said: Only those with wisdom and strong determination can apply these ten practices. As long as they meditate, are enlightened and hold steadfastly to these ten practices, even if they enter the realms of the demons, the demons cannot make them retrogress. Even though they may be in the realms of form, sound, fame, fortune, love, hate, right, wrong, prosperity, decline, success, failure ... they will still be calm and at peace. Thus, if we are deluded, all good and favorable circumstances can become conditions obstructing the Way. If we truly understand that all disease, suffering and demonic obstacles are inherently empty and false, lacking true substance, they cannot harm us in any way. The wise should apply the above ten points in the following way:
  • Turn suffering and disease into good medicine
  • Turn misfortune and calamity into liberation
  • Turn obstacles into freedom and ease
  • Turn demons into Dharma friends
  • Turn trying events into peace and joy
  • Turn bad friends into helpful associates
  • Turn opponents into "fields of flowers"
  • Treat ingratitude as worn-out shoes to be discarded
  • Turn frugality into power and wealth
  • Turn injustice and wrongs into conditions for progress along the Way.
We can see, then, that good or bad, success or failure always depends on the mind. Therefore, while beginning cultivators are very leery of obstacles, high-level masters are at times eager to face them.
Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice:

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