How to Perfect the Bodhi Mind

Having developed the Bodhi Mind and considering our own capacities and circumstances, what expedients should we adopt to perfect that Mind? If we want both the self-centered and the altruistic aspects of the Bodhi Vow to be complete, there is no better way than to seek rebirth in the Pure Land. This is the third cardinal point that the practitioner should keep in mind.
A high-ranking monk of old, having expressed his determination to cultivate, penned the following verses:
I have pondered this world, and the world beyond,
Whose name would one recite if not Amitabha's?
Truthfully, after reading these verses, pondering, and comparing Dharma methods, people's capacities and the current environment, this author is convinced that Pure Land is the safest and most complete path.
Some may say that having awakened the Bodhi Mind, we should remain in the Saha World, because in this world there are many sentient beings in need of help. Why seek rebirth in the Pure Land?
Let me reverse the question: What are the conditions that would allow us to save sentient beings? They are, of course, merit, virtue, wisdom, eloquence, spiritual power and auspicious features and bearing. (Do we have these qualities to any degree?) Particularly, severing afflictions and delusions and developing wisdom, so that we are not led astray by mundane things, is no easy matter! The ancients have said, "Severing Delusions of Views is as difficult as preventing water from running down a mountain forty miles high." If it is so difficult to rid ourselves of Delusions of Views, how much more difficult it is to sever Delusions of Thought, Delusions of "Dust and Sand," and ignorance.
Delusions of Views, simply put, are the afflictions connected with seeing and grasping at the coarse level. Delusions of Thought are afflictions at the subtle level. For countless eons, the infectious filth of greed, anger and delusion, as well as countless other erroneous views, have been instilled in our mind-consciousness. Can we really manage, in the short span of this life, to do away with them all? Today's cultivators, in general, have few blessings and shallow wisdom. Just reciting the words "Amitabha Buddha" in an accomplished manner is difficult enough. Why even mention such distant goals as saving sentient beings at will?
For this reason, the immediate necessity is to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land, first rescuing ourselves from the cycle of Birth and Death and then relying upon the auspicious environment of that Land to practice vigorously. We should wait until we have achieved Enlightenment and developed wisdom, eloquence, spiritual powers and auspicious features before returning to the Saha World to rescue sentient beings. Only then will we have some freedom of action.
Nevertheless, considering the responsibility and the compassionate mind of the cultivator, we should not completely reject all attempts to save sentient beings in our current life. In truth, however, our present altruistic attempts can only be within the framework of "according to one's means and conditions." This is not unlike the case of someone who, having fallen into the river of delusion, tries his best to reach the shore, all the while shouting to others, exhorting them to do likewise.
To speak more broadly, even if we have attained the stage of Non-Birth and must reside in the evil worlds in order to perfect the "paramitas," in reality we cannot be away from the various pure lands. Why is this so? As stated in the sutras, even Bodhisattvas of the First Stage cannot know the "comings and goings" of Bodhisattvas of the Second Stage, much less the realms of the Buddhas! For this reason, in the Avatamsaka Sutra [one of the most grandiose texts of the Mahayana canon], after preaching the Ten Great Vows, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra immediately admonished the Bodhisattvas at all fifty-two levels (i.e., all Bodhisattvas) to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land. This is because Amitabha Buddha is always teaching in that Land, and Bodhisattvas wishing to enter the lofty, esoteric realm of the Tathagatas should remain close to and study with Him.
Thus, even the highest level Bodhisattvas should spiritually divide themselves -- on the one hand remaining in the various defiled worlds to accumulate good deeds and on the other, being present in the various pure lands to be close to and cultivate with the Buddhas. Rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is, therefore, important for sentient beings -- from the lowest beings to the highest level Bodhisattvas.
As seen above, there are many obstacles along the path of Birth and Death. If we have not reached the stage of Non-Birth, it is easy to become deluded during transmigration and descend into evil realms. For this reason, to ensure non-retrogression of the Great Bodhi Mind and fulfillment of the Bodhi Vow, common mortals such as ourselves -- who urgently need to resolve the issue of Birth and Death existing before our very eyes -- should seek rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. Even the highest Bodhisattvas cannot remain away from the Pure Land, if they wish to enter the lofty, esoteric realms of the Tathagatas and fulfill the Great Bodhi Vow.