Are you interested in the oriental philosophy or the process of thinking in Buddhism?
If you are interested in them, it is recommended that you read Heart Sutra.
It is stated in the Heart Sutra what oriental thinking is.
Heart Sutra is a sutra, yet also a philosophical paper.
The outline of Heart Sutra
The original name for the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit was "Prajna paramita hrdaya Sutra".
In the Hsuan-chuang translation, it is "般若波羅蜜多心経 ".
The Heart Sutra is a Buddhist scripture written in ancient India.
It is said that the Heart Sutra is the essence of the Daihannnya sutra, which amounts to 600 volumes, and explains that Kuh (sunya) is the core of Mahayanist Buddhism.
The original text of the Heart Sutra was written in the language of ancient India, Sanskrit.
After the Sutra was translated into Chinese, it came to Japan.
There are different versions of Heart Sutras that have been translated into Chinese, but the Heart Sutra generally recognized in Japan was translated by Hsuan-chuang.
He was one of the 4 major translators in China, who lived during the Tang Dynasty.
Hsuan-chuang left Changan, China in 629 A.D., and visited various regions of India.While in India he collected many Buddhist scriptures, and then returned to Changan in 645 A.D. Upon his return, he began to translate many Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. After working for 18 years, Hsuan-chuang finalized the translation of the Heart Sutra known today.
Heart Sutra expresses the idea of Kuh by using only 266 Chinese characters.
Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra
観自在菩薩 行深般若波羅蜜多時 照見五蘊皆空 度一切苦厄
Considering carefully with deep wisdom, Avalokiteshvara, who discerned the five skandhas (five aggregates) and Kuh (sunya), has understood all the distress of the world.
Avalokiteshvara, who is called the Goddess of Mercy, can freely perceive all things in the world.
"The five skandhas (five aggregates)" are the five elements recognized in Buddhism.
There are "Siki(rupa)", "Ju(vedana)", "Sou(sanjna)", "Gyou (samskara)",and "Shiki(vijnana)".These five elements constitute the existence of mankind.
"Siki (rupa)" means all things with color and form.
"Ju (vedana)" expresses perception
"Sou (sanjna)" is the same as recognition or conception.
"Gyou (samskara)" is translated into reaction, and
"Shiki (vijnana)" is translated into consciousness or mental function
"Kuh (sunya)" indicates "void or emptiness" when it is generally considered and spoken,.
Furthermore, "Kuh (sunya)" is indicated as a thought.
"Kuhn (sunya)" as "a Buddhistic thought" is not able to explain immediately. Since we want to understand "Kuh (sunya)", we are reading "Heart Sutra" just now.
Many Bodhisattvas and St.Buddhist have gathered around The Buddha.
Kanjizai Bosatu (Avalokiteshvara) is preaching for them.
O Shari Putra
Avalokiteshvara suggests to Shari Putra (St. Shirley in Buddha's 10 major pupils).
色不異空 空不異色 色即是空 空即是色
Siki (rupa) does not differ from Kuh (sunya), and Kuh (sunya) does not differ from Siki (rupa) either.
Siki (rupa) is identical with Kuh (sunya), and Kuh (sunya) is the same as that of Siki (rupa).
Ju (vedana), Sou (sanjna), Gyou (samskara), and Shiki (vijnana) are the same as Siki (rupa).
The relation between the“Five skandhas” and Kuh (sunya) is stated above.
The Kuh (sunya) at the Buddhistic core is connected with the Five skandhas which constitute a mankind.
This expresses that Kuh (sunya) is not a distant and unknown world.
Again Avalokiteshvara suggests to Shari Putra;
All things in the universe are various phases of Kuh (sunya).
All things in the universe will be drawn from Kuh.
不生不滅 不垢不浄 不増不減
It is such a thing that does not appear nor disappear, not be pure but not impure, and does not increase but does not decrease, either.
Therefore, Kuh (sunya) is just in the middle of all things.
The concept of confrontation gives Kuh a clearer meaning. What does "being in the middle” mean?
There are many confrontation concepts.
left and right, brightness and darkness, increase and decrease, positive and negative, life and death, etc.
People gauge things using some degree of confrontation.
However, Kuh (sunya) does not affirm a confrontation concept and does not carry out denial, either.
The Sutra suggests that Kuh (sunya) is neither left nor right.
Therefore, Kuh (sunya) will be just in the middle.
Above, the Kuh (sunya) characteristic has been described.
Here, it has been explained that Kuh (sunya) is just in the middle of everything.
This interpretation completely differs from the descriptions found in the other explanations of Heart Sutra.
Many of the other explanations about this clause say "There is no Siki (rupa) in the Kuh (sunya)
If interpreted as such, it is contradictory that Siki (rupa) is identical with Kuh
(sunya) and that Kuh (sunya) is the same as of Siki (rupa).
Let's recall the Kuh as language, now.
Kuh (sunya) in India is understands as the zero (0) place holder in a number.
Zero is in the middle of a positive number (Plus) and a negative number (Minus).
Zero is neither a positive number nor a negative number.
We know the concept of Zero;
Plus (+) and Minus (-) together make Zero (0).
3-3 = it is nothing,
3-5 = it cannot count.
Using arithmetic from the early the stages of elementary school, all of these answers are correct, yet by learning how to use zero the answers will be;
Zero becomes the mathematical foundation for understanding the relationship between positive and negative and the concept of confrontation that occurs.
To understand this better, take the example of a boy with a basket of fruit.
He owns three oranges now.
If two oranges are eaten, one remains. Yet there will be nothing if he eats all three oranges.
It is impossible for him to eat four or five oranges. When the three oranges are finished, there will be nothing left, period.
However, if the concept of "zero" enters, the boy can count the non existent 4th and 5th oranges as minus 1 ( -1 ) and minus 2 ( -2 ), even though he will not be able to eat them.
If there is a concept of zero, from an infinite positive number to an infinite negative number, the numbers will continue forever on both sides. The start and the end are lost in a number.
Kuh (sunya) is not a number.
Although it should not be understood as zero, it seems like its concept is very similar to zero.
Therefore, Kuh will be used as a marker between the Buddhist concept of "life and death", much the same way zero is used to divide a number into positive (plus) and negative (minus).
Numerically Kuh can be represented as zero on a number line (... +1, 0, -1...).
"Number" (as in +1 and –1) can be used to represent "life".
Therefore, "life", "Kuh, and death" follow the linear order of "positive life", "Kuh" and "negative life". The concept of "death" disappears.
When the "concept of Kuh " intervenes between "life and death", death will not be relevant; rather the concept of "positive life and negative life" is formed.
...+1, 0, -1...
life & death >>> …+life, Kuh,-life…
Positive life is living now (alive).
Negative life is invisible and untouchable. (It is neither alive nor nothing)
It is speculated that positive life will transform into negative life by depending upon Kuh.
Therefore the start and the end will be lost in the "life", and people will be able to grow into the "negative life" through Kuh, after living their "positive life".
The concept of Kuh being "just in the middle of all things" is best demonstrated between life and death, and further clarifies its concept.
"Nothing" is explained by the following paragraph.
If there is no rupa and there is no vedana, sanjna, samskara or vijnana;
(If the five skandhas (five aggregates) does not exist;)
It has no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind, and if it has no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind;
It possesses no form, color, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea.
無無明亦無無明尽 乃至無老死亦 無老死尽 無苦集滅道 無知亦無得
The world without an eye does not even have a light and remains as it is.
In the world without an ear, there is no silent skill and it remains as it is.
In the world without a nose, it does not even say that it does not smell and remains as it is.
Furthermore, in the unconscious world, it does not even consider growing into decay or death.
The twelve links in the chain of existence (nidanas) from "ignorance (avidya)" up to decay and death (jaramarana)" are lost.
Further, the four noble truths, awakening, and attainment of enlightenment are also lost. There is even no Buddhahood.
"The twelve links in the chain of existence (nidanas)" and "the four noble truths" are important Buddhist doctrines.
The five skandhas are five elements that constitute the existence of man.
If the five skandhas are missing, it is the same as being dead.
However, in the Heart Sutra, it does not say, "People died".
This is the doctrine in Buddhism of becoming settled.
以 無 所得
Here, it is explained that Nothing is self positioning.
(The stage of Nothing was indicated from having been stated until now )
Life can be viewed as transient, but it is important to remember that people do not become “nothing” after death.
故 菩提薩垂 依般若波羅蜜多 故心無圭礙
Bodhisattvas who have discerned the stage of Nothing and depended on Prajna-paramita, have become free for all hindrances.
無圭礙故無有恐怖 遠離転倒夢想 究境涅槃
Since he became free for all hindrances, he had no fear.
Therefore, he was separated from all the delusive and perverted ideas, and was able to come to a quiet fresh ground (Final Nirvana).
三世諸佛 依般若波羅蜜多故 得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提
By relying on Prajna-paramit, all bodhisattvas and saints have obtained supremely perfect enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi).
故知般若波羅蜜多 是大神呪 是大明呪 是無上呪 是無等等呪 能除一切苦 真実不虚
Therefore, we know that Prajna-paramita is the perfect Mantra, the transcendent, utmost and supreme Mantra that is true without falsehood and can wipe out all sufferings.
Therefore, Buddhist praises and prays for the Prajna-paramita. Let's pray.
Languages to pray,
羯帝羯帝波羅羯帝 波羅僧羯帝 菩提僧莎訶
Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
In the second half of the Heart Sutra, "Prajna Paramita" is repeated no less than 4 times.
The "prajna" is translated into "wisdom." "Prajna Paramita" is translated into "completion of wisdom."
However, it is difficult to understand the full meaning of "completion of wisdom."
Therefore, these Chinese characters explain the wonderful expression of Prajna Paramita.
Wave “It is”.
“There is a belt of cloth” (= a belt like long thing).
蜜多 (mita);”There is much delicious sweet honey.”
An image comes to mind.
It is the Ganges; the big sacred river in India that is like a mother's un-exhaustive affection.
The wisdom is so deep that it can leave everything unsaid. It seems that Prajna Paramita is like such wisdom.
Heart Sutra describes the relation between the five aggregates and the Kuh first, which subsequently refers to the characteristic of Kuh and its explanation of Nothing.
It is further stated that spiritual enlightenment can be obtained by depending upon Prajna Paramita.
By using a syllogism with clear logic, the order of the text follows the pattern of introduction, development, turn and conclusion.
The poetry of the phoneme is evident in the execution of the clause.
In Buddhism, a person who comes to know spiritual enlightenment without the help of a teacher is also accepted. Yet, he shall attain the highest level of spiritual enlightenment only through Prajna Paramit.
During the lecture of Heart Sutra, Prof. Takagami explained it as follows.
It is rather difficult to explain briefly what Buddhist fundamental thought is.
I will think "Kuh", if it says at a word.
However, "Kuh" is one of the mysteries in Buddhism.
It is the exhibited secret.
Nobody can completely understand as one who understands it.
However, the instruction called Buddhism has described the Kuh from various angles and positions.
In the description of this Heart Sutra, it was explained that Kuh was just in the middle of all things.
It seems clear to include the concept of zero.
Kuh is made to intervene in between "life and death", and it seems that it is Buddhism, which creates "negative life".
People ask the meaning to which oneself is valid. It is an eternal theme whether life exists by chance or originates through necessity.
People can understand that death is necessary. However, they cannot understand the existence of the world after death.
Life is an accidental occurrence, and if death is the end for everyone, people should not worry about "the world after death." It is because all will become "nothing" when they die. Life returns to "nothing" throughout life.
If it is right, it is too sad to survive a lifetime of only pain.
If they say that your existence has value, it should not become "nothing" that you lived, even after finishing life.
Heart Sutra explains the concept of "Kuh" and "nothing", and is preaching logically the instruction that results in spiritual enlightenment.
After reading Heart Sutra, you may understand that the thinking that the balance is maintained and inclines toward neither is respected in Buddhism.
The harmony with artificiality and nature is the most modern problem.
Bodhi DayFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search
Official name Bodhi Day
Observed by Mahayana Buddhist sects
Significance The enlightenment of Buddha
Date The 8th day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, or December 8th in Japan
Related to Wesak
Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautauma (Shakyamuni) experienced enlightenment, also known as Bodhi in Sanskrit or Pali. According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a Pipul tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate one's self from it.
Traditions vary on what happened. Some say he made a great vow to nirvana and Earth to find the root of suffering, or die trying. In other traditions, while meditating he was harassed and tempted by the god Mara (literally, "Destroyer" in Sanskrit), demon of illusion. Other traditions simply state that he entered deeper and deeper states of meditation, confronting the nature of the self.
In the Pali Canon, there are several discourses said to be by Buddha himself, relating to this story. In The Longer Discourse to Saccaka (MN 36), the Buddha describes his Enlightenment in three stages:
1.During the first watch of the night, the Buddha discovered all of his past lives in the cycle of rebirth, realizing that he had been born and reborn countless times before.
2.During the second watch, the Buddha discovered the Law of Karma, and the importance of living by the Eightfold Path.
3.During the third watch, the Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths, finally reaching Nirvana.
In his words:
“ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.' ”
All traditions agree that as the morning star rose in the sky in the early morning, the third watch of the night, Siddhartha finally found the answers he sought and became Enlightened, and experienced Nirvana. Having done so, Siddhartha now became a Buddha or "Awakened One".
In Buddhist CultureBodhi Day is not as popularly celebrated as Wesak Day, both celebrating the Birth of the Buddha, or Nirvana Day, celebrating the passing of the Buddha; however, it is still observed in many mainstream Mahayana traditions including the traditional Zen and Pureland Buddhist schools of China, Korea and Japan. In Japanese Zen, it is also known as Rohatsu. In Tendai and other Japanese sects, it is called either Shaka-Jōdō-e (釈迦成道会?) or simply Jōdō-e (成道会?).
Services and traditions vary amongst Buddhist sects, but all such services commemorate the Buddha's achievement of Nirvana, and what this means for Buddhism today. Individuals may choose to commemorate the event through additional meditation, study of the Dharma, chanting of Buddhist texts (sutras), or performing kind acts towards other beings. Some Buddhists celebrate with a traditional meal of tea, cake, and readings.
Traditionally, it is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month in East Asian countries that still observe this calendar (See Chinese Calendar). However in Japan, it is observed on the Gregorian date of December 8, a result of Westernization during the Meiji Restoration (1862–1869).
 RohatsuThe word Rōhatsu (臘八) is Japanese and literally means 8th Day of the 12th Month. It is typical for Zen monks and layman followers to stay up all evening in the night before Rohatsu practicing meditation and the holiday is often preceded by an intensive sesshin.
 References1.^ Buddhist Holidays
2.^ When Is
3.^ a b c Life of Buddha
4.^ Following the Buddha's Footsteps
5.^ a b Maha-Saccaka Sutta: The Longer Discourse to Saccaka
Mahayana sutras are a very broad genre of Buddhist scriptures (sutras) which according to Mahayana Buddhists represent original teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism is a family of beliefs and practices The History of Buddhism spans the 6th century BCE to the present starting with the birth of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. Foundation to the Common Era Some sources give the date of the Buddha's birth as 563 BCE and others as 624 BCE Theravada Buddhist countries tend to use the latter figure Lists and numbering of Buddhist councils vary between and even within schools Several Buddhist terms and concepts lack direct translations into English that cover the breadth of the original term Background Why the Buddha is said to have taught in this way is illuminated by the social context of the time in which he lived In sramanic philosophy Nirvana (निर्वाण
Nirvāṇa; निब्बान Nibbāna; Prakrit: णिव्वाण The Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures, the Three Refuges, or the Triple Gem, are the three things that Buddhists take refuge Several Buddhist terms and concepts lack direct translations into English that cover the breadth of the original term According to the Buddhist tradition all phenomena other than Nirvana, ( sankhara) are marked by three characteristics sometimes referred to as the Dharma seals In Buddhist phenomenology and Soteriology, the five skandhas ( Sanskrit) or khandhas ( Pāli) are five "aggregates" Buddhist cosmology is the description of the shape and evolution of the universe according to the canonical Buddhist scriptures and commentaries Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the consciousness of a person (as conventionally regarded upon the death or dissolution of the aggregates ( Skandhas Dhamma ( Pāli: धम्म or Dharma (धर्म in Buddhism has two primary meanings the teachings of the Buddha which lead to enlightenment The doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit paticcasamuppāda; rten Karma ( Sanskrit: कर्मन karman, Pāli: कमा Kamma) means "action" or "doing" whatever A number of noted individuals have been Buddhists. Historical Buddhist thinkers and founders of schools Individuals are grouped by nationality except in cases where the Siddhārtha Gautama ( Sanskrit; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual Teacher from Ancient India and the founder A number of noted individuals have been Buddhists. Historical Buddhist thinkers and founders of schools Individuals are grouped by nationality except in cases where the In Buddhism, buddhahood ( Sanskrit: buddhatva. Pali: buddhatta. In the Buddhist context a bodhisattva (बोधिसत्त्व bodhisattva;; Vietnamese Bồ Tát; बोधिसत्त bodhisatta The four stages of Enlightenment in Buddhism are the four degrees of approach to full enlightenment as an Arahant which a person can attain in this life Theravada Buddhism Theravada Buddhism 's teachings on the paramitas can be found in late canonical books and post-canonical commentaries Buddhist meditation encompasses a variety of Meditation techniques that develop Mindfulness, concentration, tranquility and insight In English translations of Buddhist literature, householder denotes a variety of terms Obtaining exact numbers of practicing Buddhists can be difficult and may be reliant on the definition used Buddhist beliefs and practices vary according to region There are distinctions between and within the Buddhism practised in various regions including In South Asia Mahayana Buddhism is the State religion of Bhutan, and Buddhists comprise 98% of its population. History See also History of Buddhism in Cambodia Unconfirmed Singhalese sources assert that missionaries of King Asohka introduced Buddhism into Chinese Buddhism ( Pinyin fójiào refers collectively to the various schools of Buddhism that have flourished in China proper since ancient times Buddhism is a world religion which arose in Bihar, India and is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha (literally Among the five official religions of Indonesia, according to the state ideology of Pancasila According to Suharto, Buddhism and Hinduism were Indonesia's classical The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods namely the Nara period (up to 784 the Heian period (794–1185 and the post-Heian period Korean Buddhism is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism by its attempt to resolve what it sees as inconsistencies in Mahayana Buddhism Buddhism is the primary religion of Laos. The Buddhism practiced in Laos is of the Theravada tradition Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia after Islam, with 19 Buddhism in Mongolia is essentially Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelugpa school History The history of Buddhism in Burmaextends nearly a millennium Buddha was born in Shakya kingdom which lies in Rupandehi district Lumbini zone of Nepal As of 2000 425% of the Singaporeans register themselves as Buddhist by religion General Buddhism in Sri Lanka is primarily of the Theravada school and constitutes the religious faith of about 70% of the populationAccording to traditional Buddhism in Thailand is largely of the Theravada school Nearly 95% of Thailand 's population is Buddhist of the Theravada school though Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including Buddhism came to Vietnam in the first century CE By the end of the second century Vietnam developed a major Buddhist centre in the region commonly known as the Luy Lâu Buddhism in the West broadly encompasses the knowledge and practice of Buddhism outside of Asia. The Schools of Buddhism. Buddhism is classified in various ways History Origin of the school The Theravāda school is ultimately derived from the Vibhajjavāda (or 'doctrine of analysis' grouping which was a continuation Mahayana ( Sanskrit: mahāyāna, Devanagari: महायान 'Great Vehicle' is one of the two main existing schools of Buddhism and a term for Vajrayana Buddhism is also known as Tantric Buddhism, Tantrayāna, Mantrayana, Mantranaya, Secret Mantra, Esoteric Buddhism and The Early Buddhist schools are those schools into which according to most scholars the Buddhist monastic Sangha initially split due originally to differences in The term pre-sectarian Buddhism is used by some scholars to refer to the Buddhism that existed before the various subsects of Buddhism came into being Buddhist texts can be categorized in a number of ways The Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars Historicity and Background Place in the Canon Various Mahayana Sutras have been included in the Tibetan Canon and the Chinese Canon. The Tibetan Buddhist canon is a loosely defined list of Sacred texts recognized by various sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The cultural elements of Buddhism vary by region and include Buddhist Festivals and Observances Vesak The following is a List of Buddhist topics: A Abhidharma Aggañña Sutta Ahimsa Mahayana ( Sanskrit: mahāyāna, Devanagari: महायान 'Great Vehicle' is one of the two main existing schools of Buddhism and a term for Buddhism is a family of beliefs and practices Mahayana Buddhism is the State religion of Bhutan, and Buddhists comprise 98% of its population. Chinese Buddhism ( Pinyin fójiào refers collectively to the various schools of Buddhism that have flourished in China proper since ancient times Korean Buddhism is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism by its attempt to resolve what it sees as inconsistencies in Mahayana Buddhism The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods namely the Nara period (up to 784 the Heian period (794–1185 and the post-Heian period Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including Buddhism came to Vietnam in the first century CE By the end of the second century Vietnam developed a major Buddhist centre in the region commonly known as the Luy Lâu Buddhism is a major religion in Taiwan More than 90 percent of Taiwan's people practice the Chinese folk religion which integrates Buddhist elements alongside a basically Buddhism in Mongolia is essentially Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelugpa school In the Buddhist context a bodhisattva (बोधिसत्त्व bodhisattva;; Vietnamese Bồ Tát; बोधिसत्त bodhisatta In Buddhism, bodhicitta (Ch 菩提心 pudixin, Jp bodaishin, Tibetan jang chub sem, Mongolian бодь сэтгэл) is the wish Karuṇā ( Sanskrit; Pāli) is generally translated as " Compassion " or "pity In the Pali Canon In the Pali Canon, paññā is defined in a variety of overlapping ways frequently centering on concentrated insight Luminous mind in the Nikayas There is a clear reference in the Anguttara Nikaya to a " Luminous mind " present within all people be they corrupt or pure whether The Trikaya doctrine ( Sanskrit, literally "Three bodies or personalities" 三身 Chinese: Sānshén, Japanese: sanjin) The idea of an eternal Buddha is a notion popularly associated with the Mahayana scripture the Lotus Sutra. Historicity and Background Place in the Canon Various Mahayana Sutras have been included in the Tibetan Canon and the Chinese Canon. " Perfection of Wisdom " is a translation of the Sanskrit term prajñā pāramitā ( Devanagari: प्रज्ञा पारमिता The Avataṃsaka Sūtra ( Japanese: Kegon Kyō) is one of the most influential Mahayana Sutras of East Asian Buddhism. The Lotus Sutra or Sutra on the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma (Sanskrit sa सद्धर्मपुण्डरीकसूत्र Saddharma Mahayana and the Nirvana Sutra Sasaki (1999 in a review of Shimoda (1997 conveys a key premise of Shimoda's work namely that the origins of Mahayana Buddhism The Vimalakīrti Sūtra ( Chinese: 維摩詰經 is a Mahayana sutra, belonging to Mahayana Buddhism The Laṇkāvatāra Sutra ( Chinese: 楞伽經 is a Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China started in the 1st century CE with a semi-legendary or quasi-historical account of an embassy sent to the West by the Acharya Nāgārjuna ( Telugu: నాగార్జున (c 150 - 250 CE) was an Indian philosopher the founder of the Madhyamaka Asanga (also called Aryasanga born around 300 CE was an exponent of the Yogācāra school of Buddhist philosophy Vasubandhu ( fl 4th c was according to Mahayana Buddhist tradition an Indian Buddhist scholar-monk and along with his half-brother Asanga Biography Contemporary accounts There are two known extant accounts written by contemporaries of Bodhidharma
Buddhism is a family of beliefs and practices Mahayana ( Sanskrit: mahāyāna, Devanagari: महायान 'Great Vehicle' is one of the two main existing schools of Buddhism and a term for Siddhārtha Gautama ( Sanskrit; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual Teacher from Ancient India and the founder The earliest scripture that mentions "Mahayana" is the Lotus Sutra, probably compiled in its earliest form in the first century CE. The Lotus Sutra or Sutra on the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma (Sanskrit sa सद्धर्मपुण्डरीकसूत्र Saddharma
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Later Qin Dynasty
The Tripiṭaka Master Kumārajīva from Kucha
Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was staying in the Anāthapiṇḍika Garden of Jetavana Park in the city kingdom of Śrāvastī, together with 1,250 great bhikṣus, who all were great Arhats as recognized by the multitudes. Such great disciples included the Elder Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākāśyapa, Mahākātyāyana, Mahākauṣṭhila, Revata, Śuddhipanthaka, Nanda, Ānanda, Rāhula, Gavāṁpati, Piṇḍola-Bharadvāja, Kālodāyin, Mahākapphiṇa, Vakkula, Aniruddha, and others. Also present were Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, such as Mañjuśrī the Dharma Prince, Ajita Bodhisattva, Gandhahastin Bodhisattva, and Persistent Energetic Progress Bodhisattva. Along with great Bodhisattvas such as these, in attendance as well were the god-king Śakro-Devānām-Indra and an innumerable multitude of gods.
At that time the Buddha told the Elder Śāriputra, “West of here, beyond 100,000 koṭi Buddha Lands, is a land called Ultimate Bliss. In that land is a Buddha called Amitābha, who is now expounding the Dharma. Śāriputra, why is that land called Ultimate Bliss? Sentient beings of that land have no suffering but only experience myriad joys. Therefore, that land is called Ultimate Bliss. Moreover, Śāriputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss is surrounded by seven rows of railings, seven layers of nets, and seven lines of trees, all made of the four treasures. Therefore, that land is called Ultimate Bliss.
“Also, Śāriputra, in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are ponds made of the seven treasures, filled with water with the eight virtues. Covering the bed of each pond is gold dust. The stairs and walkways on the four sides of each pond are made of gold, silver, aquamarine, and crystal. Standing majestically are lofty towers, all adorned with gold, silver, aquamarine, crystal, conch shell, ruby, and emerald. The lotus flowers in the ponds are as large as carriage wheels. The blue colors gleam with blue light; the yellow colors, yellow light; the red colors, red light; the white colors, white light. They are wonderful, fragrant, and pure. Śāriputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss is formed with such virtues as its adornments!
“Also, Śāriputra, celestial music is always playing in that Buddha Land, and its ground is made of yellow gold. Day and night in the six periods, māndarāva flowers rain down from the sky. At dawn, sentient beings of that land fill their robes with wonderful flowers to make offerings to 100,000 koṭi Buddhas [in worlds] in other directions. At mealtime, they return to their own land to eat and do walking meditation. Śāriputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss is formed with such virtues as its adornments!
In addition, Śāriputra, in that land are various kinds of unusual, wonderful birds of diverse colors, such as white cranes, peacocks, parrots, śāris, kalaviṅkas, and jīvajīvas. Day and night in the six periods, these birds sing harmonious, exquisite tones. These tones pronounce Dharmas, such as the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Bodhi Factors, and the Eightfold Right Path. Sentient beings that hear these tones all think of the Buddha, think of the Dharma, and think of the Saṅgha. Śāriputra, do not say that these birds are born as a form of requital for sins [in their past lives]. Why not? Śāriputra, that Buddha Land does not have the three evil life-paths. Śāriputra, even the names of the three evil life-paths do not exist in that Buddha Land, much less the actual paths. These birds are all magically manifested by Amitābha Buddha to have the Dharma tones flow everywhere.
“Śāriputra, as breezes blow in that Buddha Land, the jeweled trees in lines and the jeweled nets [with bells1] make wonderful music, like 100,000 melodies playing at the same time. Those who hear these tones spontaneously think of the Buddha, think of the Dharma, and think of the Saṅgha. Śāriputra, that Buddha Land is formed with such virtues as its adornments!
“Śāriputra, what is your opinion? Why is that Buddha called Amitābha? Śāriputra, that Buddha’s radiance is infinite, illuminating lands in the ten directions, hindrance free. Therefore, He is called Amitābha. Moreover, Śāriputra, the lifespan of that Buddha and His people is measureless, limitless asaṁkhyeya kalpas. Therefore, He is called Amitāyus. Śāriputra, it has been ten kalpas since Amitābha Buddha attained Buddhahood. In addition, Śāriputra, that Buddha has innumerable, countless voice-hearer disciples. All of them are Arhats, their numbers unknowable by calculation. Equally unknowable is the size of the multitude of Bodhisattvas. Śāriputra, that Buddha Land is formed with such virtues as its adornments!
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, sentient beings reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are at the spiritual level of avinivartanīya. Many among them are in the holy position of waiting to attain Buddhahood in their next life. Their numbers are so large that they are unknowable by calculation, and can be reckoned only in terms of measureless, limitless asaṁkhyeyas. Śāriputra, sentient beings that have heard [of that land] should resolve to be reborn in that land. Why? To be in the same place together with people of superior virtues. Śāriputra, no one with the condition of few roots of goodness and a meager store of merits can be reborn in that land.
“Śāriputra, if, among good men and good women, there are those who, having heard of Amitābha Buddha, single-mindedly uphold His name for one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, or seven days, without being distracted, then upon their dying, Amitābha Buddha, together with a multitude of holy beings, will appear before them. When these people die, their minds will not be demented and they will be reborn in Amitābha Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. Śāriputra, I see this benefit, so I speak these words. If there are sentient beings that hear what I say, they should resolve to be reborn in that land.
“Śāriputra, as I now praise Amitābha Buddha’s inconceivable merit, so too do Buddhas in worlds in the east, such as Akṣobhya Buddha, Meru Banner Buddha, Great Meru Buddha, Meru Light Buddha, and Wonderful Tone Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: ‘You sentient beings should praise His inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.’
“Śāriputra, in worlds in the south are Sun-Moon Lamp Buddha, Renown Light Buddha, Great Flame Aggregate Buddha,2 Meru Lamp Buddha, and Infinite Energetic Progress Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: ‘You sentient beings should praise His inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.’
“Śāriputra, in worlds in the west are Infinite Life Buddha, Infinite Aggregate Buddha, Infinite Banner Buddha, Great Light Buddha, Great Radiance Buddha, Jewel Brilliance Buddha, and Pure Light Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: ‘You sentient beings should praise His inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.’
“Śāriputra, in worlds in the north are Flame Aggregate Buddha, Supreme Tone Buddha, Hard-to-Vanquish Buddha, Sun Birth Buddha, Web-of-Radiance Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: ‘You sentient beings should praise His inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.’
“Śāriputra, in worlds toward the nadir are Lion Buddha, Renown Buddha, Renown Light Buddha, Dharma Buddha, Dharma Banner Buddha, and Dharma Upholder Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: ‘You sentient beings should praise His inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.’
“Śāriputra, in worlds toward the zenith are Brahma Tone Buddha, Constellation King Buddha, Fragrance Superior Buddha, Fragrant Light Buddha, Great Flame Aggregate Buddha, Adorned with Jeweled Flowers in Diverse Colors Buddha, Salendra King Buddha, Jeweled Lotus Flower Splendor Buddha, Seeing All Meaning Buddha, and Sumeru Likeness Buddha. Buddhas such as these are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Each Buddha in His own land extends His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, and speaks these truthful words: ‘You sentient beings should praise His inconceivable merit and believe in this sūtra, which is protected and remembered by all Buddhas.’
“Śāriputra, what is your opinion? Why is this sūtra called a sūtra protected and remembered by all Buddhas? Śāriputra, if there are good men and good women who have heard and upheld this sūtra, and have heard Buddhas’ names, they are protected and remembered by all Buddhas. They will never regress from their resolve to attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. Therefore, Śāriputra, you all should believe and accept my words and other Buddhas’ words. If there are those who have resolved, are now resolving, or will resolve to be reborn in Amitābha Buddha’s land, those people will never regress from their resolve to attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, whether they have already been reborn, are now being reborn, or will be reborn in that land. Therefore, Śāriputra, if, among good men and good women, there are those who believe [my words], they should resolve to be reborn in that land.
“Śāriputra, as I now praise Buddhas’ inconceivable merit,3 likewise those Buddhas praise my inconceivable merit, saying these words: ‘Śākyamuni Buddha can do the extremely difficult, extraordinary thing in the Sahā World during the evil times of the five turbidities—the turbidity of a kalpa, the turbidity of views, the turbidity of afflictions, the turbidity of sentient beings, and the turbidity of their lifespan—attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. For the sake of sentient beings, He expounds the Dharma, which the entire world finds hard to believe.’
“Śāriputra, know that, in the evil times of the five turbidities, I have done this difficult thing, attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. For the sake of the entire world, I expound the hard-to-believe Dharma. It is extremely difficult!”
After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, Śāriputra and other bhikṣus, as well as gods, humans, asuras, and others in the entire world, having heard the Buddha’s words, rejoiced, believed in, and accepted the teachings. They made obeisance and departed.
—Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Amitābha Buddha
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T12n0366)
1. F. Max Müller footnotes in Buddhist Mahāyāna Texts (Cowell et al.  1969, part 2, 92), that he translates the Sanskrit word kaṅkanījālānām (bells of nets) as strings of bells. However, bells can hang from a net (jāla), as described in the Mahāyāna Sūtra of Consciousness Revealed (see Sūtra 18). So the term is translated as nets with bells. (Return to text)
2. In text 366 (T12n0366), Kumārajīva translates the Sanskrit name Mahārciskandha into Chinese as Great Flame Shoulder. The Sanskrit word arci can mean flame or ray, and skandha can mean shoulder or aggregate. In text 367 (T12n0367), Xuanzang translates Mahārciskandha as Great Light Aggregate. Here, this name is translated as Great Flame Aggregate. (Return to text)
3. In an earlier passage in this sūtra, the Buddha says, “Śāriputra, as I now praise Amitābha Buddha’s inconceivable merit, so too do Buddhas in worlds in the east, . . .” Therefore, for this passage, it seems that Śākyamuni Buddha’s praising the inconceivable merit of Amitābha Buddha would confirm the earlier passage and would be more relevant than His praising the merit of Buddhas in general. Support of this comment is found in a corresponding passage in text 367 (T12n0367, 0351a27–29), in which the Buddha states: “Śāriputra, as I now acclaim and praise Amitāyus Buddha’s inconceivable merit, who has formed His Buddha Land of Ultimate Bliss, likewise other Buddha-Tathāgātas [in worlds] in the ten directions praise my inconceivable boundless merit, . . .” (Return to text)
Originally Translated by Dr. J. C. Cleary ---- Mind-Seal of Buddhas
Humbly Revised by Hsingmean (Edwin) Sha 沙行勉 based on my understanding of the scriptures.
Version: Dec. 4, 2007. This one has the Main part. The Essence and Introduction are in another file.
[Main portion of AMITABHA sutra]
The main body of the sutra is divided into three parts. The first part presents a full-scale description of the wonders of the Pure Land and of Amitabha in order to arouse our faith. The second part makes a special point of urging sentient beings to seek rebirth in the Pure Land, in order to get them to vow to do so. The third part teaches Pure Land practitioners to recite the Buddha-name in order to establish their practice.
The essential message of the sutra as a whole is to develop faith and vows and recite the Buddha-name. Vows and faith are acts of wisdom, and reciting the Buddha-name is an act of practice. Whether we achieve rebirth in the Pure Land depends entirely on whether or not we have faith and vows. How high we rank in the Pure Land depends entirely on how deeply we recite the Buddha-name. Thus, the act of wisdom is the guide, and the act of practice is true cultivation: they go together like eyes and feet.
The first part of the main body of the sutra has two sections: the first describes the wonders of the Pure Land, and the second describes the wonders of Amitabha and the people born there.
Now let us look at the first part. [Buddha says to Sariputra:]
Buddha says to Sariputra: "Why is this land called Ultimate Bliss"?
Next comes the explanation, in two parts: an explanation of the beneficiaries of the Pure Land, and an explanation of what they receive.
It is called "Ultimate Bliss" because the sentient beings in this land are free from the myriad sufferings, and only receive every kind of joy.
Sentient beings are the ones who receive [the benefits of the Pure Land]. All sentient beings below Buddha, from highest rank of Bodhisattva, can be called such. Here we can regard them as ordinary people in the Land, using the lowest case to include all cases.
In this mundane world of ours, the world called "Endurance", suffering and happiness intermingle. The happiness in the Endurance world is not ultimate happiness, where the suffering is painful suffering because it harries the body and the mind, and the happiness is deteriorating happy since happiness does not remain for long. When we are neither
suffering nor happy, we still suffer the pain of transience, since all things are transitory by nature.
The Pure Land is forever removed from these three kinds of suffering. The happiness in the Pure Land is not the same as the happiness in our world, which is only relative to suffering, so it is called ultimate bliss.
Roughly describe the joys in each land in the world of Ultimate Bliss. In the Land of Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together, people have little five turbidities; there are no birth-death and eight kinds of sufferings: birth 生, aging 老, sickness 病 and death 死, separation from that which we love 爱别离苦, association with that which we hate 怨憎会苦, Inability to fulfill our desires 求不得苦 and the suffering from the instability of the five skandhas (aggregates) 五阴盛苦. They will receive joys of no sickness, no aging, traveling freely, heavenly food and clothing, and assembly with Saints.
People reaching this Expedient Land personally experience void through subtlety, with no attachment of still void but with the joy of freedom. People reaching the Reward Land have realized their nature completely, with no attachment of differentiation of dharma, but with the joy of inconceivable no-obstruction. People in the Quiescent Light Land have reached the equal understanding of Buddha, with no shortcoming of any leakage of Absolute Reality, but with the ultimate joy and complete enlightenment.
For the people in Land where Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell together, because the Buddha-name they recite enable them to receive the same good roots, meritorious virtues as Buddha, they reach the same purity and receive the same joys as people in other three lands. Thus, the most wonderful feature of the World of Ultimate Bliss lies in the Dwelling-Together Land, not the upper three lands because this land has the similar benefits as the upper three lands and the only difference among them are just particulars. Moreover, the comparison between the Dwelling-Together Land and our inferior mundane world is obvious. Therefore, people are delighted to reach there from our mundane world and enjoy the total environment of World of Ultimate Bliss. This is why the Buddha is talking about “Bliss” here.
Next, Buddha explains what sentient beings experience in Amitabha's Land of Ultimate Bliss:
Furthermore, this land is called "Ultimate Bliss" because it is surrounded by seven rings of railings, and seven layers of nets, and seven rows of trees, all made of the four precious jewels.
The seven rings, seven layers, and seven rows represent the seven categories of the aids to enlightenment [the four bases of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of miraculous power, the five roots, the five powers, the seven factors of Enlightenment, and the eightfold right path]. The four precious jewels represent the four qualities of enlightenment: permanence, bliss, real self and purity.
The word "surrounded" stands for the innumerable abodes of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The fact that the surroundings are all made of the four precious jewels indicates that the sentient beings in the Pure Land have their own deep meritorious virtues, and the fact that these precious things surround them stands for the holy ones who are everywhere in this Land of Ultimate Bliss.
[ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY (after Master Hsuan Hua): The railings represent the precepts (prohibiting evil and preventing error) the netting represents concentration (because one does not enter or emerge from true concentration) and the trees represent wisdom (it you have wisdom, you are said to be tall).]
Here is to explain the causes and the bodies of these sublimities in each land. In Dwelling-Together Land, it is caused by the karma of exceedingly good deeds, and is also caused by the results of five deeds expounded by the Round Section. The sublimity is embodied by the karma-generated marvelously-splendid environment perceived by their five sensory organs.
In Expedient Land, the sublimity is caused by the wisdom that sees everything’s essence void, and is also caused by the efforts made by three true views. The sublimity is embodied by the marvelously-true reality of all phenomena and the no-delusion environment perceived by Beings there.
In the Real Reward Land, the sublimity is caused by the wisdom understanding that the essence of all phenomena and internal principles are merely name references, and is also caused by the partial realizations of Buddhahood from three delicate views. The sublimity is embodied by the marvelously-expedient reality of everything, and the environment that is endless.
In the Eternally Quiescent Land, the sublimity is cased by the wisdom of merging-center that contemplates void and name-reference identical, and is also caused by the ultimate three views. The sublimity is embodied by the marvelously-central reality and true-nature environment.
The comparisons made here are just for the ease of explanation. Actually the sublimity of four lands is just caused by karma. They all are identical in terms of void, name-reference and canter. Thus the pure environment of the Dwelling-together land encompasses all true, expedient realities as the other thee lands. All lands are in one, endless to decipher.
Question: As the essence of Eternally Quiescent Land is of noumenon, why does the land have this sublimity of phenomena? Answer: Each sublimity of phenomena fully
embodies inner noumenon, and each inner noumenon completely encompasses sublimity. Thus, the ultimate environmental results must have both phenomena and inner noumenon. If people think that the Quiescent Land does not have the marvelously-splendid environment, this concept is not different from the bias that everything is nothing but void, and only void.
Next the sutra gives two broad explanations: first, an explanation of what sentient beings receive in the Pure Land, and second a combined explanation of the recipients and what they receive.
The first explanation is also in two sections: a description of where sentient beings are born in the Pure Land, and a summary of the powers of Amitabha Buddha.
Moreover, the Land of Ultimate Bliss has seven-treasure ponds filled with the waters of eight virtues. The bottom of each of the ponds is floored by sands of pure gold, and the stepped walkways along four sides of ponds are made of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and crystal. Above ponds there are towers which are adorned with gold and silver and lapis lazuli and crystal and shells of giant clams (Tridacna clams) and red pearl and agate. In the ponds there are lotus flowers as big as cart wheels: blue ones shining with blue light, yellow ones shining with yellow light, red ones shining with red light, and white ones shining with white light, each emitting a subtle pure fragrance.
Earlier on the sutra described where sentient beings live in the Pure Land; now it describes where they are born.
The jewel ponds and the things made of gold and silver and so on in the Pure Land are not the same as the earth and stones in our mundane world.
The eight virtues of the water that fills the jewel ponds in the Pure Land are the following: 1. it is pure and limpid, unlike the turbid water of our world; 2. it is clear and cool, unlike the water of our world, which is either too cold or too hot; 3. it has a sweet pleasing taste, unlike the water of our world, which has an inferior taste, being either salty or alkaline; 4. it is light and soft, unlike the water of our world, heavy and hard; 5. it is moist and nutritious, unlike the murky water of our world, which shrink and rot things and is erosive; 6. it is peaceful, unlike the turbulent water of our world; 7. it eliminates hunger and thirst, unlike the water of our world which makes us shiver; 8. it always nurtures the capacities of sentient beings, unlike the water of our world which easily damages their capacities, and can be stagnant and insalubrious, and drown people and so on.
The water in the Pure Land always keeps the jewel ponds perfectly full, unlike the water in our world, which can dry up or overflow. The bottom of the jewel ponds is pure gold sand, unlike the mud and muck on the bottom of ponds in our world. The walkways that lead up from all four sides of each of the ponds are made of precious things, unlike the brick and stone walkways in our world. The pavilions above the ponds are adorned with seven treasures, unlike the pavilions in our world.
These pavilions are dwelling places, and they are also places where teaching assemblies are held. As soon as a person is reborn in the Pure Land, and comes forth from one of the lotus-wombs in one of the jewel ponds, that person can reach one of the four lands, enter a teaching assembly, see Amitabha Buddha, and hear the Dharma.
The lotus flowers are as big as cart wheels. The size of a cart wheel can be as large as 40 miles, actually picking it as the smallest one for reference. If we follow the other Pure Land Sutras, the sizes of these lotus flowers are hard to measure because the sentient beings born in the Dwelling Together Lands have various kinds of different features. Here uses the colors in our Mundane World to represent those subtle colors that are emitted from lotus in the Pure Land.
The bodies that are born from these lotuses are shining with light, and thus the lotus-wombs themselves are also shining with light.
The colored lights of lotus flowers in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are infinitely varied, and here the sutra just mentions them in brief.
The "subtle pure fragrance" of the lotus flowers is emblematic of their special virtues: they are ethereal with no forms, unobstructed, formless with no dust. Since the lotus-wombs are like this, we can understand what the bodies born from them must be like.
In the next sentence, the sutra sums up the powers of Amitabha Buddha.
The Land of Ultimate Bliss is complete with all these merits and adornments.
All the adornments of the dwellings in the Pure Land and the settings in which sentient beings are reborn in the Pure Land are created by the inherently real merits of the great vows and great deeds of Amitabha Buddha. That's why he can adorn all the Four Pure Lands, and embrace all the ordinary people and saints of all the worlds of the past, present, and future, and enable them to be reborn in the Pure Land.
With his great vows, Amitabha creates the causal basis for the multiplication of good roots of sentient beings, and with his great deeds he creates the conditions for the increase of merits of sentient beings. Thus those who develop faith and vows and recite the Buddha-name, from moment to moment, achieve these merits. All this is already accomplished: it is not just happening now, nor is it yet to happen.
All the adornments of Amitabha act as an augmenting substance that stimulates the development of all the adornments within the minds of sentient beings. Amitabha in total merges with sentient beings: all his powers merge with ours. Thus the sutra says that the Pure Land "is complete with all these merits and adornments."
Next the sutra explains the sentient beings in the Pure Land, and what they receive. This section has two parts. First it explains what sentient beings in the Pure Land experience in terms of the five sense-faculties and five sense-objects. Next it explains this in terms of hearing and sounds.
Again, the first part can be divided in two: the explanation itself, and the summary. Here is the first passage:
And there is more -- celestial music is constantly playing in this Buddha-land, and the ground is made of gold. Flowers like Mandarava flowers rain down at all hours of the day and night. Every morning the sentient beings of this land use flower baskets to contain multitudes of wondrous flowers and make offerings to hundreds of billions of Buddhas in other worlds. When it is meal time, they return to their own lands, to eat and circumambulate [the teaching assembly].
Music represents the sense-object sound, the ground represents the sense-object form, the flowers represent the two sense-objects form and scent, food represents the sense-object flavor, and decorating garments, making offerings and circumambulating represent the sense-object touch. It is obvious that the sense-faculties of sentient beings [here in the Pure Land] are paired with sense-objects.
The music is "constantly playing", twenty-four hours a day. The ground is made of gold, because Amitabha's Pure Land is a world adorned with precious things, whose basic substance is gold.
The sutra says that flowers rain down at all hours of the day and night. But since both the Pure Land and its inhabitants shine with light, and do not depend on sun and moon for illumination, how can there be a division of day and night? This is just said provisionally to accord with the distinctions we make in our mundane world.
The Sanskrit name for the Mandarava flowers means both "as we wish" and "white flowers". The flower baskets are used to contain flowers. Multitude of wondrous flowers shows many varieties of flowers other than Mandarava flower. This should be as four flowers that were said in Lotus Sutra, which represent four causal stages.
Making offerings to Buddhas in other worlds symbolizes that through having a true causal basis, we can attain the ultimate fruit, and that the virtues of this ultimate attainment extend everywhere. From our mundane world, passing through hundreds of billions of Buddha lands, after we are reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it will not be hard for us still to make offerings to Sakyamuni Buddha and Maitreya Buddha. If we are strengthened by the supernatural power of Amitabha, there is no place too far for us to reach.
The time for eating is the morning, so the sutra says the inhabitants of the Pure Land return to their own land when it is time to eat to show their supernatural power of unimpeded bodily function. They go to all the worlds in the ten directions and return to their own land without taking any time.
This passage shows that in the Pure Land every sound, every sense-object, every moment, and even every step and every snap of the fingers, interpenetrate without obstruction, and
are in accord with the three Jewels [Buddha, Dharma and Sangha] of all the worlds of the ten directions.
It also shows that in our mundane world, the defilements and obstructions are so serious that our world is separated off from the Land of Ultimate Bliss, even though from the view of the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the mundane is not really separated from it. When we are reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, our merit and virtues will be so great that we will not be separated from this mundane world since we reach the mundane world in an instant.
For the sentient beings, born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, food will come as they feel like eating, with no pre-arrangement, and the bowls will be gone when meals are over, with no need to wash the bowls. After eating, they walk quietly and slowly in the gold Buddha Land. With the flowers and joys around, they are just studying dharma and improving themselves naturally.
Again, the sutra sums things up:
The Land of Ultimate Bliss is complete with all these merits and adornments.
Next the sutra explains what is experienced in the Pure Land in terms of hearing sound. Because the people in our mundane world are the most sharp in hearing ability, the sutra expounds the voices teaching Dharma in particular. In fact, the Land of Ultimate Bliss encompasses the potential of the Dharmadhatu – Dharma Realms (cosmos). All the sense-objects are perfect and wondrous there, and produce all the teachings.
This passage in the sutra is also divided into two parts: a particular explanation, and a general summation. The particular explanation discusses the sounds that come from sentient beings, and the sounds that come from inanimate things. It tells of the sounds of the birds bringing the benefits of the Dharma, and then briefly answers a question.
And there is more still - in this land there are birds of all sorts of wondrous variegated colors: white cranes, peacocks, parrots, orioles, kalavinka birds which can produce wondrous sounds, jivajiva birds with two heads in one body. All these birds bring forth harmonious songs day and night. Their songs communicate such Buddhist teachings as the five roots, the five powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, the eightfold path, as well as other teachings.
When the sentient beings in this land hear the voices of the birds, they are mindful of the Buddhas, mindful of the Dharma [Buddha's teachings], and mindful of the Sangha [Community of Seekers of Enlightenment].
“All sorts of variegated colors” means plentiful and beautiful. Six types are briefed in the text. It is possible that “Sheli” bird refer to orioles as Chan Master Chi said. Kalavinka birds, referring to “wondrous sound”, can produce sounds prettier than other birds. Jivajiva birds, referring to “sharing lives”, have two heads in one body, different senses but with the same karma. These two types of birds can be found in snowy mountains in the west of our world. The birds listed in the text, though they are appeared in our world, are used to show the similar wonders of the birds that are appreciated by people. From “Singing day and night”, we know that in the pure land birds as well as all sentient beings do not rest in the “nights.” Because all bodies in the pure land were born by lotus flowers, there is no need of sleeps.
The five roots, et al. are parts of thirty-seven aids to enlightenment. They are: The Four Bases of Mindfulness, the Four Right Efforts, the Four Bases of Supernatural Powers, the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, and the Eightfold Holy Path.
The Four Bases of Mindfulness: Mindfulness of body, mindfulness of sensation, mindfulness of thought, and mindfulness of phenomena.
The Four Right Efforts: Getting rid of existing evil, working not to produce evil, to work at producing goodness, and to work at nurturing goodness.
The Four Bases of Supernatural Powers: (1) desire power, the desire to gain excellent meditation; (2) effort power, the effort to gain excellent meditation; (3) mindfulness power, the gaining of control over thoughts and (4) wisdom power, the good function of analytical meditation.
The Five Roots of Goodness are described as follows. The faith in right ways and various aids to goodness refers to the root of faith. The continuing effort in practicing right ways and aids to goodness refers to the root of effort. The single mindfulness of right ways and various aids to goodness refers to the root of mindfulness. The concentration of thoughts in right ways and various aids to goodness refers to the root of concentration. The wisdom of observing four noble truths refers to the root of wisdom.
[The four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the arising of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering.]
The Five Powers obtained by the practice of five roots are described as follows. The power of faith: increase of the root of faith that can break doubts, wrong concepts and delusions. The power of effort: increase of the root of effort that can break various laziness of our body and mind to accomplish the success of breaking life-and-death cycle. The power of mindfulness: increase of the root of mindfulness that can break various evil minds to accomplish all kinds of out-of-life-cycle virtues and merits. The power of concentration: increase of the root of concentration can break chaotic thoughts to develop meditation that correctly contemplates phenomena and noumenon. The power of wisdom: increase of the root of wisdom that can remove the doubts of intermediate teachings (common doubts to all and particular doubts to Mahayana Buddhists) to reveal the true Buddha wisdom.
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment, also called Seven Bodhi Shares, are described as follows. 1. Correctly evaluating the teaching: when using wisdom observes various phenomena, we can differentiate the true and the false, and will not accept various deceptive teachings. 2. Making effort at practice: when vigorously practicing various aiding methods to enlightenment, we realize that we should not practice useless austerities and always reside our mind in the practice of true dharma. 3. Rejoicing in the truth: we feel joyful when we realize the true dharma, not deceptive dharma. 4. Freeing from illusions: when removing various illusions, we can be free from deception without hurting our virtuous root. 5. Detachment of all thoughts from external things: when detaching thoughts that come from our observation and thinking, we can realize the falsity of these thoughts and never try to keep. 6. Concentration: when mind is in various meditation states, we can realize the falsity of these states, and do not feel like to attach with them. 7. Keeping proper awareness: when practicing dharma, we balance the wisdom and concentration; if our mind is sinking, we know how to use the first three factors of enlightenment: selection of teaching, making effort at practice and rejoicing in the truth, to investigate and recover our mind; if our mind is floating and vibrating, we
know how to use the later three factors of enlightenment, freeing from illusions, detachment of thoughts and concentration, to sustain and stabilize it. Thus, we know how to keep our mind in harmony and balance.
The noble eightfold path, also known as the correct eightfold path is described as follows. 1. Right view: conduct uncontaminated observation and understand clearly four noble truths. 2. Right thought: use uncontaminated mind matches with our thought to generate realization of awareness, so the progress is raised to reach enlightenment. 3. Right speech: use uncontaminated wisdom to remove four wrong types of livelihood and to absorb four types of wrong actions related to speeches, so the speeches can be always right. 4. Right action: use uncontaminated wisdom to remove all wrong actions, so we can always conduct clean and correct actions. 5 Right livelihood: use uncontaminated wisdom to remove the five types of wrong livelihood (make a living by showing unusual phenomena, saying his own virtues and merits, fortune telling, intimidating others with power and words, and alluring people with the benefits of giving.) from action, speech and thought, so the correct livelihood can be maintained. 6. Right effort: use uncontaminated wisdom to match with diligence and continuing effort, and to practice the methods for reaching enlightenment. 7. Right mindfulness: use uncontaminated wisdom to match with the mindfulness of direct methods and aiding methods to enlightenment. 8. Right concentration: use uncontaminated wisdom to match with concentration.
These aids to enlightenments belong to Elementary (Hinayana) teaching (Lesser Vehicle) when they are based on the practice of birth-and-death four noble truths. They belong to Common teaching when they are based on the practice of no-birth four noble truths. They belong to Particular teaching when they are based on the practice of unlimited four noble truths. They belong to Round teaching when are based on the practice of un-constructed four noble truths.
The Elementary (Hinayana) teaching named “half-way dharma gate,” seems not necessary to be used in Pure Land for the land has light defilement. Or it might be used temporarily for those who prefer Elementary teaching. The Common teaching, named “beginning gate of Mahayana teaching,” is followed by people in all three vehicles (Shravaka, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva) （声闻、缘觉、菩萨）. It is taught usually in Dwell-Together land. The Particular teaching, named “gate particular for Bodhisattva,” is taught usually in Expedient Land. The Round teaching, named “ultimate supreme Buddhist dharma,” is heard by people with sharp faculties in all four Lands.
The Buddhist teachings communicated by birds as put in the Sutra text include all those thirty-seven aids to enlightenment as previously described as well we endless Dharma gates such as Four methods of attracting people learning Buddhism, Six perfections (Paramitas) (charity, morality, patience, effort, meditation, wisdom), Ten kinds of powers possessed by the Buddha, etc.
Although all Buddhist methods are subsumed under the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment, the potentials and circumstances of sentient beings all differ。 Different forms of the Buddhist teaching have been devised for each individual. The Teaching is expressed effectively to all sentient beings according to what they are ready to hear. This enables those who hear the Teaching to become mindful of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It enables them to develop the Bodhi Mind [aspiration for enlightenment for the benefit of self and others], and to put an end to afflictions and delusions.
They vividly see the inconceivable mercy and the awe-inspiring character of the Buddha, and so they become mindful of the enlightened ones. The joy of the Dharma enters their hearts, and they are filled with the flavor of the Dharma, and so they become mindful of the teaching of enlightenment. They listen to the teaching together, and accept it as a community, and wholeheartedly cultivate realization, and so they become mindful of Sangha, the community of seekers.
What enables us to be mindful of comes from three forms of contemplation (on emptiness, on dependent arising, and on the middle) and what are we mindful of are three objects of contemplation (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). They all have different aspects
with the four levels of the teaching (Elementary, Common, Particular, and Round teachings) but the same essence.
We should understand the different way to see into the three levels of truth (emptiness, dependent arising, and the middle) either expediently or truly from the four types of Teachings as described briefly.
Do not think that these birds were born as birds due to karmic retribution for past misdeeds. Why not? In this Buddha-land, the three evil realms (as animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings) do not exist. In this Buddha-land even the names of the evil realms do not exist, much less the realities. All these birds are the creations of Amitabha Buddha, fashioned in order to broadcast the sounds of the Dharma.
From the question and answer of the scripture, we can understand the meaning of these birds
Question: Are the names of birds [as animals] not names of creatures belonging to one of the evil realms?
The answer is: These birds in the Pure Land are not birds as a result of karmic retribution for having committed evil. All the birds in Pure Land are communicating the ultimate merits of the Tathagatas (Buddha). They can be called "birds of the ultimate", and this is a beautiful appellation conveying their innate virtues, not some pejorative name [connoting creatures born in a low realm].
Question: What does it mean that Amitabha fashions these birds?
The answer is: The reason is to provide the four modes whereby the Buddha preached the Dharma to all sentient beings.
[First], ordinary people take delight in these birds and can listen to them, since this suits their feelings, and makes them happy. [Second], when people think that even the birds can express the Dharma, and thus the listeners are easy to produce virtuous thoughts. [Third], by making people realize that we should not think of these birds in a pejorative way, it counteracts our tendency to make arbitrary distinctions. [Fourth], the birds represent Amitabha, which lets us realize the everywhere-equal nature of the Dharmakaya, which possesses everything, and creates everything.
This passage shows us that all the sounds [in the Pure Land], such as the sound of the breeze and the rustling of the trees and the jewel nets, as well as everything about the Pure Land environment and the Buddha who presides there, whether a provisional expedient or an absolute reality -- all these things are in their very essence identical to Amitabha Buddha with his Dharma Body, Reward Body, and Emanation Body -- all these things are no different from the four virtues of Amitabha Buddha, which are permanence, bliss, self and purity.
In this Buddha-land, there is a slight breeze that stirs the rows of jewel trees and jewel nets, so that they emit subtle wondrous sounds, like hundreds and thousands of melodies playing all at once. All those who hear these sounds spontaneously develop the intention to be mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Sangha.
[In the Pure Land], both the sentient beings and the inanimate things communicate the wondrous Dharma together, and simultaneously expound the innumerable methods of the four types of Buddha’s teachings. They offer explanations to all beings according to their kind, enabling their audiences to become mindful of the Three Jewels -- Buddha [the Enlightened One], Dharma [the Teaching of Enlightenment], and Sangha [the Community of Seekers].
To become mindful of Three Jewels, sentient beings benefit from the ways whereby the Buddha teaches Dharma to sentient beings. When ordinary people first hear the teaching, their bodies leap with delight: this is the benefit of joy. When their vital energy makes contact with the Three Jewels, they are sure to be able to develop the Bodhi Mind: this is the benefit of becoming virtuous. Using this to conquer afflictions is the benefit of destroying evil. Realizing the Three Jewels [Buddha, Dharma and Sangha] as one single essence is the benefit of understanding the supreme truth.
At this point the sutra sums up the foregoing presentation with the line:
This Buddha-land is complete with all these merits and adornments.
The sutra sums things up again and again so that we can believe with profound faith that all the adornments of the Pure Land are brought into being by the vows and actions of our guiding teacher Amitabha, and manifested by his wisdom, and that they are also brought about by our own pure karma, as manifestations of consciousness. The Buddha-mind and the minds of sentient beings are reflections of each other, just as the lights of many lamps both individually reach everywhere and seem to merge into one. Inner truth forms all kinds of phenomena, and all phenomena as a whole are identified with inner truth. Our entire true nature gives rise to genuine religious practice, and genuine religious practice in its entirety lies within our true nature. This is something we should constantly ponder deeply.
How can anyone talk as if there is another "Pure Land that is Mind Alone" apart from this Pure Land? If you do this you are indulging in empty babbling.
This is the end of the section in the sutra describing the wonders of the Pure Land environment.
[Description of the wonders of Amitabha]
Next the sutra takes up the wonders of Amitabha Buddha himself. First Buddha poses a question, and then proceeds to explain Amitabha's name:
What do you think: why is this Buddha called Amitabha?
This sutra teaches the wondrous practice of reciting the name of Amitabha, so it makes a special point of explaining the name. The intent of the sutra is that people should develop deep faith in the inconceivable powers of this great name and its myriad virtues, and singlemindedly recite the Buddha-name without any further doubts or diversions.
The next passage gives two explanations of the name "Amitabha" -- as "infinite light" and as "infinite life". The literal translation of "Amitabha" is "infinite", and infinity is actually unexplainable. Here in the sutra our teacher Sakyamuni Buddha uses the meanings "infinite light" and "infinite life" to encompass all sorts of infinity.
Infinite light extends through space in all directions; infinite life extends through time and reaches through past, present, and future. The dimensions of space and time interpenetrating are the body of the universe. This body as a whole is the body and land of Amitabha, and this body as a whole is used as the name of Amitabha.
Thus, the name of Amitabha is the inherently enlightened true nature of sentient beings (Innate Enlightenment), and reciting the name of Amitabha merge the Actualized Enlightenment into the Innate Enlightenment. The internal force that begins the efforts to be enlightened is actually the inherent enlightenment itself, just as sentient beings and Buddhas are not two different things. Thus if we are in accord [with our inherently enlightened true nature] for a moment, we are Buddhas for a moment, and if we are in accord [with our inherently enlightened true nature] moment after moment, we are Buddhas moment after moment.
First, the sutra gives the definition of the name of Amitabha as "Infinite Light":
The light of this Buddha is infinite, and shines on all lands throughout the universe without obstruction. Thus this Buddha is called Amitabha.
The true nature of mind is still but always shining with awareness; hence it is a light. The idea here is that Amitabha Buddha penetrates to the infinite essence of the true nature of mind, so his light is infinite. All the Buddhas penetrate to the true nature of mind, and they all shine through all the worlds in the ten directions, so they all could be called "Infinite Light".
But the Buddhas in the causal stages [i.e., as Bodhisattvas] differ in the power of their vows, and they are named differently according to their circumstances. When Amitabha [in his previous incarnation in the distant past] was the monk Dharmakara, he made forty-eight vows, among them the vow that his light would forever shine through all the worlds in the ten directions. Now that he has achieved Buddhahood, what he vowed has been accomplished.
The light of the Dharmakaya (Dharma Body) is boundless, and the light of the Sambhogakaya (Reward Body) is in accord with true nature--in this all the Buddhas are the same. The light of the Nirmanakayas [Response Body such as Sakyamuni] differs in scope: in some Buddhas it shines for a hundred miles, in other Buddhas it shines a million times further; in some Buddhas it illuminates one world, in other Buddhas it illuminates a million worlds. Only Amitabha's light shines universally. Thus Amitabha in particular is named "Infinite Light". Still, the three Buddha-bodies are neither one nor different. These distinctions are made only to benefit sentient beings.
Here explains “No obstructions.” This refers to people. From the point of view of ordinary people, if their affinity with Amitabha Buddha is deep, then the light will reach them everywhere, and always appear to them in its complete fullness in all worlds.
The true nature of Mind is shining with awareness yet ever still: hence it is life. The idea here is that Amitabha Buddha penetrates to the infinite essence of the true nature of Mind, so his life span is infinite. The life of Dharma body is endless with no beginning, and the life of Reward body is endless with beginning. These are the same for all Buddhas. So all Buddhas can be called “infinite life,“ while the Response bodies might have different life spans dependent on the purpose of the responses each time.
When Amitabha was Dharmakara, the king of vows, he made a vow that the life spans of both Buddhas and sentient beings [in his realm] would be infinite. Now what he vowed has been accomplished [in the Pure Land], and he is given the special name "Infinite Life". In the sutra scripture, the life span is numbered by an extremely large number. This large number for us to perceive can be regarded as “infinitely countable.” However, we must know that the life span of Response body can be also regarded as “infinitely uncountable” because all three Buddha bodies are intrinsically the same. The “people” in the sutra scripture refer to those reaching the status below “Equal Enlightenment”. It says that the life spans of Buddha and the people are all infinite.
We must understand that the names "Infinite Light" and "Infinite Life" are both based on the attributes of sentient beings. Because sentient beings and Buddhas are inherently equal, those who invoke the name of Amitabha will be no different from him either in their light or in their life span.
Moreover, given the truth of infinite light, when sentient beings are born in Amitabha's Land of Ultimate Bliss, they are also born in all the lands of the ten directions, and when they see Amitabha Buddha, they are also seeing all the Buddhas of the ten directions. Thus when they are saved themselves, they can bring benefits to all.
Given the truth of infinite life, the people in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are in the position that they are certain of attaining complete enlightenment in a single lifetime, and will not be reborn in different forms.
We must realize that there is no such a name of Amitabha apart from our mind of infinite light and infinite life that is before us now at this moment, and there is no way for us to penetrate the mind of infinite light and infinite life that is before us now at this moment apart from the name of Amitabha. I hope you will ponder this deeply!
This explains the accomplishment of the dharma master of the land of Ultimate Bliss. But the Dharma body cannot be said to be accomplished at any time. The Reward body can be said to be accomplished when the cause and result is compete. The Response body can be said to attain enlightenment for the purpose of showing the result to people. Thus, “attained enlightenment ten eons ago” refers to these two bodies.
However, the Dharma body also can be said to be attained after a period of time because it is discovered after our cultivation. In another sense, the Reward body and the Response body cannot be said to be attained because the Reward body is nothing new to be attained and the Response body is like a moon reflection on water.
The origins and traces of each Buddhas might have their own, and the origins are inconceivable. Here it just shows the trace of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. It means that when all three Bodies are attained, everything is attained. It also means that the attainment is not attained and is not un-attained.
The life span of Amitabha Buddha is infinite, and here the sutra just speaks of ten eons. Thus, the current teaching is right to the present time, far away from the end. Here I urge all the sentient beings of the past, present, and future to quickly seek birth in the Pure Land, share in the infinite life of the Buddha, and accomplish this all in one lifetime.
The sutra goes on to speak of Amitabha's innumerable disciples who are Arhats, Bodhisattvas, and final-stage Bodhisattvas. All of them achieved their status during the past ten eons. Here the sutra is really illustrating that throughout all the worlds of the ten directions in the past, present and future, many sentient beings achieve birth in the Pure Land with no falling back, and do so easily.
Moreover, this Buddha has innumerable Shravaka disciples, all of whom are Arhats, and whose numbers are incalculable. Amitabha also has a following of innumerable Bodhisattvas.
Sentient beings in other worlds who are set in their ways as followers of the Lesser Vehicles do not get to be born in Amitabha's Pure Land. But if those who have studied the practices of the Lesser Vehicles in their early lives turn toward enlightenment when they are facing death, and make great vows, they will be reborn in the Pure Land.
Buddhas teach according to the people’s levels and preference. Those who have removed the affliction developed from views and thoughts are called Arhats. They accomplish the similar level as people in Particular section who have reached the Seventh stage (The abiding of no-backsliding) of Ten Abidings, so they are not just the followers of Lesser Vehicles. The followers in Lesser Vehicles never heard of any Buddhas other than Sakyamuni. After they heard the name of Amitabha Buddha and developed faith and vows to be born there, they can be regarded to be covered by the Particular Section and Round Section of Buddha’s teaching.
Again, the sutra sums things up:
The Land of Ultimate Bliss is complete with all these merits and adornments.
Amitabha Buddha himself, his disciples, and the Bodhisattvas who follow him, are all within the causal ground of Amitabha, created by his vows and his actions. At the level of results, when one is formed, all are formed. Thus Amitabha Buddha himself, his disciples, and the Bodhisattvas, are neither identical to nor different from each other: self and others are not two. Thus [after describing Amitabha Buddha himself, his disciples, and the Bodhisattvas who follow him] the sutra says, "The Land of Ultimate Bliss is complete with all these merits and adornments." Amitabha can enable those who have faith and vows and recite his name to become complete with all these merits after each of their mindfulness of the Buddha.
This is the end of the first part of the sutra, which gives a broad account of the wondrous fruits of the Pure Land environment and Amitabha and his retinue, in order to arouse our faith.
[Seeking rebirth in Pure Land]
In the next section of the sutra Buddha urges all sentient beings to seek rebirth in the Pure Land and to make vows. The first part reveals the supreme causal basis for people in the Pure Land to reach enlightenment, and the second part urges people to be reborn there.
What a special excellence of the Pure Land is that Sentient beings can be reborn there carrying their karmic load with them, and thereby transcend the three realms "horizontally." In the pure land, the land where saints and ordinary beings dwell together includes all Four Lands [the Land where Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together, the Land of Expedient Liberation, the Land of Real Reward, and the Land of Eternally Quiescent Light], and reveals the four teachings [elementary, common, particular, and round].
Sentient beings who are born in Amitabha's Pure Land completely reach the Four Lands, see the three Buddha-bodies, and fully arrive at the point where they cannot fall back from their position, from their practice, or their mindfulness. All the people in Amitahha's Pure Land will attain enlightenment in one lifetime.
All these special features of the Pure Land are pointed out in the next two sections of the sutra. You should study them carefully.
None of the sentient beings who are born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss ever fall back into a lower realm [i.e., they are avaivartika]. Many among them have only one more lifetime [to go before enlightenment]. These beings are very numerous, and their number is incalculable: they can be spoken of as innumerable.
The sutra uses a Sanskrit word, "avaivartika", which means "not falling back". [There are three senses of this "not falling back" that apply to sentient beings in the Pure Land.] First,
they do not fall hack from their status: having entered the sagehood, they do not fall back to the level of ordinary beings. Second, they do not fall back from their practice: as followers of the Bodhisattva path they continue to work for the salvation of all beings, and do not fall back to the level of the Lesser Vehicles [with their concern limited to individual salvation]. Third, they do not fall back from their mindfulness: from mind-moment to mind-moment, they flow into the ocean of all-inclusive wisdom, i.e. Buddha’s wisdom.
If we speak of our own world, “not falling back from their status” is reached by the people in our world who enter the first-fruit status in Elementary teaching, the fourth stage of Bodhisattva in Common teaching, the first abiding stage in Particular teaching, or the first faith stage in Round teaching. “Not falling back from their practice” is reached by people in our world who enter the ninth stage of Bodhisattva in Common Teaching, a stage of ten practices in Particular teaching, a stage of ten faiths in Round teaching. “Not falling back from their mindfulness” is reached by the people in our world who enter the first level of the ten-stage of Bodhisattva’s path in Particular teaching or the first abiding stage in Round teaching.
In Amitabha's Pure Land, even those who dwell in its lowest level, and have been born in there bringing along their karmic burdens, do not fall back from their status, from their practice, or from their mindfulness.
According to the doctrines of the non-Pure Land Buddhist scriptures, normal beings are not saints who reached the first-fruit status. People who are following Lesser Vehicle are not Bodhisattvas who follow Greater Vehicles. Those whose mindfulness does not match with Buddha’s nature cannot be said that they have obtained the same nature as Buddha’s. Similarly, those who have reached “not falling back from their mindfulness” cannot be said that their mindfulness is different from Buddha’s. Those who have reached “not falling back from their practice” are beyond the levels of saints in Lesser Vehicles. Those who have reached “not falling back from their status” are no longer normal beings. It is a major error and a deviation from the established terminology to speak of skipping stages.
It is only in Amitabha's Pure Land that people are not in any of these stages, and yet in all of them. Such transcendence of names and forms does not exist in any other Buddha-land: this definition of stages and levels, this teaching, does not exist in any other Buddha-land. But how could any of this exist if not from the ultimate reality of the true nature of mind, if not from the special effect of reciting the Buddha-name, if not from the great vows of Amitabha?
[In the non-Pure Land Buddhist scriptures] the stage of having only one lifetime to go before enlightenment is attributed only to final-stage Bodhisattvas such as Bodhisattva Maitreya and Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyi). But everyone in the Land of Ultimate Bliss will achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. Everyone in the Pure Land is sure to experience the stage of having only one lifetime to go before enlightenment, and among them are countless numbers of such superlative [Bodhisattvas].
Among the teachings given by Sakyamuni Buddha in this era, only the Flower Ornament [Avatamsaka] Sutra explains perfect realization in a single lifetime. The basis for perfect realization is explained in the Chapter on the "Vows of Samantabhadra", in the Ten Great Vows showing the way back to the land called "Peaceful Nurturing" [another name for Amitabha's Pure Land]. The Flower Ornament [Avatamsaka] Sutra is thus urging the whole assembly in the Flower Treasury World (cosmos) on toward the Pure Land.
How amazing! Ordinary people [in the Pure Land] reach the stage of having only one lifetime to go before enlightenment, just like the great Bodhisattvas. What a sublime teaching -- it is truly unfathomable! What was presented to us in the Flower Ornament [Avatamsaka] Sutra is here in the Amitabha Sutra. Yet from ancient times until now, few have believed in it, and many have doubted it. Complex writings have been produced, but the meaning is hard to express. All I can do to set things right is work my heart out.
At this point in the sutra, Buddha gives a specific advice:
When sentient beings hear [of the Land of Ultimate Bliss], they must take a vow to be born in this land. Why so? So they can be together with all these beings of superior goodness.
The Arhats and the Bodhisattvas the sutra talks about at the beginning [as part of the assembly listening to Buddha who expounds the sutra] can be called "good people". But only those with only one lifetime to go before enlightenment, those who are at the top level of the causal ground for enlightenment, are called "beings of superior goodness" (beings of the highest virtue). The sutra says "all these beings of superior goodness" because their number is large. "Being together" expresses the idea that in the Pure Land the ordinary and the saints live together.
In the ordinary lands, holy sages live together with the ordinary people when sages pursuing to be Arhats still carry some past impure karma, and sages pursuing to be Bodhisattvas deliver their vows of great compassion. When the impure karma is over or the deliver has no chance, the holy sages and ordinary people differ widely in levels of attainment, and of bliss. Then, those who can see and hear [such holy sages] are few, and among those who do have the good fortune to see or hear them, few can approach them closely.
When a Buddha is in the world, there may be relatively many holy ones [helping to spread the teaching], but after all they are still rare jewels, and they cannot cover the whole world like the stars of the firmament. But even though sometimes in other lands saints and ordinary beings can dwell together, what they do and what they act and accomplish there are far from the same.
Those who have been born in the Pure Land are together due to their stainless karma and inconceivable deeds. These beings act as one another's teachers, and work in harmony, so that they may end ignorance together, and together achieve wondrous enlightenment.
The ordinary lowly ones born in the Pure Land, by virtue of not falling back from mindfulness, have transcended [many levels of Bodhisattvahood]. If we say they are ordinary people, [this is wrong, because they are beyond the cycle of rebirth]; they are on the verge of becoming enlightened, and are no different from the great Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta. Although they are going to attain enlightenment in one lifetime, still, they must be called ordinary people, and they cannot be called final-stage Bodhisattvas. This state of affairs cannot be encompassed by the systems of the non-Pure Land sutras, and has no precedent in Buddha-lands other than Amitabha's Pure Land.
We must realize that in our great mission to reach enlightened, this barrier to the Land Where Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together is the hardest to cross over. The Land of Ultimate Bliss, Amitabha's Pure Land Where Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together, is unique -- it goes beyond all the other lands where saints and ordinary beings live together.
Only when we comprehend this can we have deep faith in the power of the vows of Amitabha. Only when we believe in the power of Amitabha Buddha can we have deep faith in the merits of his name. Only when we believe in the effect of the name of Amitabha can we have deep faith that the True Nature of our own minds is actually inconceivable. Only when we have this deep faith can we make great vows.
The text of the sutra says sentient beings must take a vow to be born in the Pure Land. This word "must" points to deep faith. Making vows with deep faith is precisely the Awakening Mind. The combination of faith and vows is truly the guiding compass to the Pure Land. By such faith and vows to consistently invoke the Buddha-name is correct practice.
If your faith and vows are solid and strong, then even you recite the Buddha-name only ten times, or only once, as you are on the brink of death, you are sure to attain birth in the Pure Land. Without faith and vows, even if you recite the Buddha-name until [you achieve a level of concentration the Zen literature describes as] "wind cannot enter you and rain cannot wet you" and "you stand like a silver wall or an iron wall", you will still not have a way to be born in the Pure Land.
Those who cultivate Pure Land practices must realize this truth. The Longer Amitabha Sutra also takes vows as essential and is identical in meaning to this section.
Now the sutra directly teaches practitioners that reciting the Buddha-name is the way to practice. First it shows the working of supreme cause and effect, and then it reiterates its admonition to recite the Buddha-name.
One cannot be born in this land through minor good roots, meritorious virtues and causal connections.
If there are good men or good women who hear of Amitabha Buddha, and recite his name singlemindedly and without confusion, for one day or two days or three days or four days or five days or six days or seven days, then when these people are about to die, Amitabha Buddha and all the sages who are with him will appear before them. When these people die, their minds will not fall into delusion, and they will attain rebirth in Amitabha Buddha's Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Bodhi minds with right (Bodhisattva) path are good roots, the direct causal basis. Other meritorious actions that promote the path, such as charity, discipline, and meditation, bringing merits and virtues, are the supportive conditions.
Literalist disciples of the Lesser Vehicle (Shravakas) and Pratyeka, have few good roots. The meritorious deeds and virtues of human beings and gods, defiled as they are, are also few. These will not be born in the Pure Land because of the lake of causal basis and conditions. Only if you have faith and vows and recite the Buddha-name will each and every repetition of the Buddha-name be amply supplied with good roots and meritorious virtues. Even if you invoke the Buddha-name in a scattered state of mind, the merits and good roots are still incalculable -- how much the more so when you invoke the Buddha name singlemindedly without confusion.
[By invoking the Buddha-name], you will bring on a response -- the shape is made and the function of mold is then accomplished -- Amitabha and his holy retinue come to you without coming, and extend a hand to lead you off. As the Amitabha Buddha is in your mind, you go to the Pure Land without going, placing yourself in a jewel lotus there.
When the sutra speaks of "good men and good women", it does not matter whether they are monks and nuns or householders, or whether they are high-ranking or low-ranking or old or young. No matter what your station and forms in life, all you have to do is hear the Buddha-name, and the good roots you have accumulated over many eons immediately ripen, and all forms of evil and perversity are transformed into virtues.
"Amitabha Buddha" is the all-inclusive term for the myriad virtues. When you use the name of Amitabha to summon virtues, all the virtues is included. Thus, reciting the name of Amitabha is the correct practice, and you do not need to get involved with other practices such as visualization or meditation. Reciting the name of Amitabha is the simplest and most direct method.
If you hear [the Buddha-name] and believe in it, if you believe in it and make vows, then you are fit to recite the Buddha-name. If you do not have faith and do not make vows, it is as if you never heard [the Buddha-name] at all. Merely hearing the name of Amitabha [without faith and vows] may become a long-term causal basis [for your enlightenment], but it cannot be called the "wisdom that comes from hearing".
The practice of reciting the Buddha-name enables us to be mindful of the Buddha-name from moment to moment, and thus bring forth the “wisdom".
There are two levels of practice in reciting the Buddha-name: reciting the Buddha-name at the phenomenal level and reciting the Buddha-name at the level of inner truth (noumenon).
1. Reciting the Buddha-name at the phenomenal level means believing that Amitabha exists in his Pure Land in the West, but not yet comprehending that he is a Buddha in our Mind, and that this Mind is Buddha. It means you resolve to make vows and to seek birth in the Pure Land, like a child longing for its mother, and never forgetting her for a moment.
2. Reciting the Buddha-name at the level of inner truth (noumenon) means believing that Amitabha and his Pure Land in the West are inherent features of our own [pure] Minds, the reflection of our own [pure] Minds. It means using the great name of Amitabha, which is inherent in our Minds and the creation of our Minds, as a focal point to concentrate our minds on, so that we never forget our own pure mind for a moment.
The sutra speaks of reciting the Buddha-name for one to seven days, defining a period of time in which we should accomplish the work. This passage can be interpreted in two ways.
[One interpretation is that] those with sharp faculties will be able to reach complete undisturbed Buddha-remembrance after one day of invoking the Buddha-name. Those will dull faculties will only be able to reach complete undisturbed Buddha-remembrance after seven days of invoking the Buddha-name. Those of middling faculties may take from two to six days to reach complete undisturbed Buddha-remembrance.
Another [interpretation of this passage is that] those with sharp faculties will be able to achieve complete undisturbed Buddha-remembrance for seven days, those will dull faculties will only be able to achieve it for a single day, and those of middling faculties may achieve it for from two to six days.
There are also two categories for the One Mind [i.e. singleminded practice].
i) Regardless of whether you recite the Buddha-name at the phenomenal level or the inner truth level, if you invoke the name of Amitabha until you subdue all afflictions (anger, greed, ignorance...) and put an end to delusions of views and thoughts, this is the One Mind at the phenomenal level.
ii) Regardless of whether you recite the Buddha-name at the phenomenal level or the inner truth level, if you invoke the name of Amitabha until your mind opens and you see inherent Buddhahood, this is the One Mind at the level of inner truth.
The One Mind at the phenomenal level is not tainted by delusions of views and thoughts, and the One Mind at the inner truth level is not deluded by the supposed dualisms [of essence and form, nirvana and samsara, Buddhas and sentient beings]. This is "the wisdom that comes from cultivating practice".
When you are not deluded by delusions of views and thoughts [at the moment of your death], the response you get is that Amitabha Buddha will appear before you in his Emanation (Response) Body, along with his whole retinue of holy ones. Your mind will no longer create the delusions appeared in three realms of this mundane world "Endurance", and you will go to be reborn in either the Pure Land Where Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together, or the Pure Land of Expedient Liberation.
When you are not deluded by dualisms [at the moment of your death], the response you get is that Amitabha Buddha will appear before you in his Reward Body, along with his whole retinue of holy ones. Your mind will no longer create the delusions of Samsara and Nirvana, and you will go to be reborn in either the Pure Land of Real Reward, or the Pure Land of Eternally Quiescent Light.
We must realize that reciting the name of Amitabha is not only a method that is simple and direct, it is also a method that is sudden and complete for Enlightenment. Since the Buddha-name reciting merges with Buddha from moment to moment, without bothering with visualization or meditation, you immediately witness perfect illumination, with no excess and no lack. Those of the highest faculties cannot go beyond this level while those of the lowest capabilities are also able to reach it. Of course the way Amitabha appears to people and the level of the Pure Land they are born in is not the same.
We can say that the method of reciting the name Amitabha fully encompasses all the varieties of Buddhism, the "eight teachings and five periods" [i.e., all the teachings of the Buddha's during his lifetime, according to the T'ien--t'ai schema]. In so doing, it is the most complete expression of the Buddha's compassionate heart, teaching spontaneously without being asked. What incredible power!
Question: The Meditation Sutra is devoted to explaining visualization. Why do you say not to bother with visualization?
Answer: This idea comes from the Meditation Sutra itself. Because the superior forms of visualization [focusing on the Reward Body of Amitabha] are beyond the mental power of ordinary people, that sutra in the thirteenth contemplation also introduces a lower grade of visualizing the form of Amitabha [focusing on the Response Body, that is, the physical form, of Amitabha]. However those whose karmic barriers are heavy cannot even focus on Amitabha in that way, so in the sixteenth contemplation, the sutra teaches the method of invoking the name of Amitabha. The Amitabha Sutra concentrates on the Buddha-name-recitation method of the sixteenth contemplation because it is the Dharma Ending Age, and there are many people with heavy karmic obstructions.
We should know that though people have dull faculties, the images and the name of Amitabha Buddha are all created by our mind and inherent to our mind (The same One Mind). Thus the method to visualize the lower form of Buddha image is effective enough without the need to visualize the superior form of Buddha. Similarly, the method to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha is also effective enough without the need to conduct any visualization.
Question: Masters like Tien-Chi and Du-feng have proposed meditating on the Zen question, "Who is the one reciting the Buddha-name?" Why do you say that it is not necessary to practice such a Zen meditation?
Answer: This idea comes from Master Tien-Chi himself as well as other masters. Master Tien-Chi did not want to stand idly by while people reciting the Buddha-name failed to comprehend the compassion of Sakyamuni Buddha [in teaching Buddha-name-recitation], so he posed this question to help them wake up [to the real sense of reciting the Buddha-name]. When he taught this it was like the dawn returning after a long night.
If we are unwilling to still our minds in order to recite the Buddha-name with complete concentration, we are taking hold of "a fragment of tile with which to knock on a door to hit out at our own parents [our Mind]": we are rebelling against our own patriarchal teachers and doing evil, rather than obeying them and being good. [This fragment of tile represents Mater Tian-Chi’s question: “Who is the one reciting the Buddha-name?”]
Question: What you said make sense for those who are willing to still their minds by reciting the Buddha name will be alright. But how are about those who are unwilling to recite Buddha name?
Answer: Alas! Master Tien-Chi is asking you to recite the Buddha name for reaching accord with the Buddha's Mind precisely because you are not yet willing to do so. Since you have not yet developed true faith, it is as though you are wearing thick leather blinders, and cannot cut through them. You must realize that those with eyes have no
reason to light a lamp when the sun is shining -- why should those without eyes struggle to find a lamp in broad daylight?
The Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta [one of the three Pure Land sages] said that without using any other expedients than Buddha recitation, you manage to open your own mind. This is like a great mass of fire coming from the "Buddha recitation Samadhi": Whoever touches this fire of Samadhi will be subsumed by it.
Question: When Amitabha Buddha appears to Pure Land practitioners when they are on the brink of death, how can they be sure it is not a demon?
Answer: If a Buddhist is not meditating on the Buddha, and yet Buddha suddenly appears unexpectedly, this is called a demon (delusion). A Pure Land practitioner sees the Buddha while focusing on the Buddha. In his case [cause and effect coincide] and his mind is in unison with the appearance of the Buddha. The appearance of the Buddha is therefore not a demon. Moreover, the brink of death is not the time to cause the appearance of demon. There is no need to worry about this.
Question: When the sutra speaks of reciting the Buddha-name singlemindedly for seven days, does this refer to ordinary times, or to the time when we are about to die?
Answer: This refers to ordinary times.
Question: If we recite the Buddha-name for seven days, singlemindedly and without confusion, but later we again become confused and create bad karma, will we still achieve birth in the Pure Land?
Answer: A person who has actually managed to recite the Buddha-name singlemindedly will not give rise to confusion or create bad karma again.
Question: The Longer Amitabha Sutra speaks of attaining birth in the Pure Land through ten repetitions of the Buddha-name. The Treatise of the Precious King of Samadhi speaks of attaining birth in the Pure Land through a single repetition of the Buddha-name. Are they referring to ordinary times, or to the time when we are about to die?
Answer: Attaining birth in the Pure Land through ten repetitions of the Buddha-name applies to both times. If we recite the Buddha-name ten times each morning, this is an ordinary occasion. On the other hand, the Longer Amitabha Sutra speaks of attaining birth in the Pure Land through ten repetitions (and this is the same as what the Meditation Sutra says) -- this refers to when we are on the brink of death. As to passage in the "Treatise of the Precious King of Samadhi" about attaining birth in the Pure Land through a single repetition of the Buddha-name, this refers to the time when we are about to die.
Question: If we can attain birth in the Pure Land through ten repetitions of the Buddha name, or even a single repetition, why do we need seven days of reciting the Buddha-name, as the Amitabha Sutra says?
Answer: If we have not done the work of reciting the Buddha-name singlemindedly for seven days during ordinary times, how can we reach the Pure Land through ten repetitions or a single repetition when we are on the brink of death?
It would not be more than one chance in a million if someone who had committed many evils were to have a causal basis from past lives ripen as he was on the brink of death, enabling him to meet a spiritual friend, hear his teaching, and develop faith and vows. How could people rely on this slim chance of luck? [Master Tien Ru book] Doubts and Questions about the Pure Land has refuted this idea of waiting till death to practice Buddha recitation in great detail. People these days should read that book.
Question: If Amitabha's Pure Land is a hundred billion worlds away from here, how can we be reborn there instantly?
Answer: The land that is a hundred billion worlds away is not beyond one moment of thought, since fundamentally there is nothing outside the True Mind. When we rely on the power of Buddha that is inherent in our own mind, what is so hard about being born in the Pure Land instantly?
It is like a many layered scene of mountains and rivers and towers reflected in a mirror: all the layers appear there in the mirror, and in reality there is no near and far. All are reflected at once, appearing without before or after. When the sutra says "West of here, past a hundred billion Buddha-lands, there exists a world called 'Ultimate Bliss''', it is also like this. When the sutra says "In this land there exists a Buddha called Amitabha, who is expounding the Dharma right now", it is also like this.
It is also like this when a person [who has developed faith and vows and recited the Buddha-name] is about to die, and Amitabha and all his retinue of saints appear before that person. It is also like this when the person dies without his or her mind falling into delusion, and the person is immediately born in Amitabha's Land of Ultimate Bliss.
We must recognize that every word in the sutra is said in the Ocean-Seal Samadhi and the Wisdom of Great-Perfect-Mirror.
Question: Reciting the Buddha-name is a part of practice, an auxiliary practice. Why do you call it a principal practice?
Answer: Basing ourselves on the One Mind, we speak of faith, vows, and practice. There is however no order of precedence here, nor is naming three aspects a set definition. Without vows and practice, we cannot speak of true faith. Without practice and faith, we cannot speak of true vows. Without faith and vows, we cannot speak of true practice.
Relying fully on our faith and our vows, we recite the Buddha-name. Thus faith, vows, and practice seem to be three things, but all three are fully present in every repetition of the Buddha-name. This is why the sutra says the phrase of many good roots, meritorious virtues and causal connection. The Meditation Sutra means this when it says that by invoking the Buddha-name, from moment to moment we are clearing away the bad karma of eighty million eons of birth and death. Without great merits, virtues and good roots, how could we clear away bad karma on such a grand scale?
Question: With the intensity that comes [to reciting the Buddha-name] on the brink of death, we can clear away a lot of bad karma. Can we achieve the same result in ordinary times if we invoke the Buddha-name singlemindedly?
Answer: When the sun comes out, all darkness disappears. When we invoke the great name of Amitabha, myriad evil deeds are wiped away.
Question: Can we also clear away bad karma if we invoke the Buddha-name with a scattered mind?
Answer: The merit and virtue of the Buddha-name are inconceivable, so how could they not clear away bad karma? But reciting the Buddha-name with a scattered mind does not guarantee being reborn in the Pure Land, since the good roots created by a diffuse,
scattered recitation is no match for the bad karma that have accumulated from time “without beginning.”
We must understand that all of space could not contain our accumulated bad karma, if they took on physical form. Every repetition of the Buddha-name might wipe away the bad karma of eighty millions eons of birth and death, but even if we recited the Buddha-name days and nights for a hundred years, the amount of bad karma which would be wiped out is like the amount of dirt under a fingernail, while the amount of bad karma remaining is like all the dirt on earth.
The only way [to eliminate all bad karma] is to recite the Buddha-name to the point of singleminded concentration. Then it is like a powerful warrior breaking out of encirclement, so even three armies cannot hem him in any more. In all instances however, invoking the Buddha-name is a seed for becoming enlightened. It is like an indestructible diamond that will last.
When Sakyamuni Buddha was in the world, there was an old man who asked to become a monk. The congregation of five hundred arhats all said the old man was lacking in good karmic roots. Buddha however said: "Countless ages ago this man was being pursued by a tiger, and cried out "Nam Mo Buddha!" Now the good roots from that occasion have become ripe: he has met me and found the path. This is not something that followers of the Lesser Vehicle can perceive." This story and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra show that even those who invoked the Buddha-name in a scattered and confused state of mind have planted the seed of Buddhahood. How can we not believe them?
It is my humble hope that no matter whether you are a layperson or a monk or nun, no matter whether you are smart or stupid, [you will adopt a positive attitude] toward this simple, direct, supreme round and sudden Pure Land teaching. Do not look upon it as difficult, and shrink away from it. Do not look upon it as easy, and become complacent and not try hard enough. Do not look upon it as shallow, and wrongly despise it. Do not look upon it as profound, and not dare to accept it as your task.
The name of Amitabha which we recite is truly inconceivable [because it is our True Mind]. The True Mind of those who recite it is also truly inconceivable. If you recite the
Buddha-name once, it is inconceivable. If you recite it ten or a hundred or a thousand or a million times, or countless times, every one is inconceivable.
In the next passage in the sutra, Buddha reiterates his admonition:
I have seen this benefit, and so I speak these words. If sentient beings hear what I say, they must make a vow to be born in that land.
Buddha says, "I have seen this benefit." The vision of the Buddha is the ultimate in clarity. The benefit he has seen is that through reciting the Buddha-name sentient beings can transcend the world of Five Defilements, completely purify the Four Lands, and reach the end of levels where they do not fall back from their position. This is the benefit brought about by the inconceivable merit of the Amitabha’s Pure Land.
With reference to what happens when we die, this benefit is that our minds do not fall into delusion and error. It is known that if we cultivate practice in this polluted world through our own effort, it is extremely hard to gain power over the crucial juncture of birth and death.
If there is the least bit of bad tendency that you have not cleared away [by the time you are about to die], you will plunge into an untoward rebirth following the strongest force -- this applies no matter whether you have ignorantly cultivated a misguided practice and trusted in your deluded intellect, or whether you have had some profound awakenings and your conduct has been consistent and correct. As Pure-land Patriarch Yung-ming said, "Nine out of ten people who practice Zen meditation miss the road: scenes of delusion appear before them [at death], and in an instant they follow them off." This is truly a chilling prospect! Even Arhats become deluded again as they emerge from the womb
and even Bodhisattvas can become benighted between death and a subsequent rebirth. Here [at the point of death], how can you forcibly act the master? If you expect to be so lucky, you are a fool.
The only way out is to have faith and vows and recite the Buddha-name because of the help from Other-power. Amitabha's vows of compassion are certainly not empty promises. If we have faith and vows and recite the Buddha-name, when we die Amitabha and the assembly of saints will appear before us to comfort us and lead us away. That way we will not fail, and we will be free to be reborn in the Pure Land.
Buddha saw that sentient beings' greatest suffering is to fall into confusion at the moment of death, and so he vouchsafed this Pure Land teaching to us. This is why he urged us again and again to take vows: because vows can guide us.
Question: If Buddha is a creation of the Mind, if Buddha is the Mind, why do you not speak of our own inherent Buddha as supreme? Why do you insist that another Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, is better?
Answer: This Pure Land teaching is all a matter of comprehending that Amitabha Buddha is precisely our own Buddha Nature, our Mind. If we mistakenly refer to the Buddha as "other", we would fall into one form of delusive view. If we were to overemphasize our own inherent Buddha, this would be another form of delusive view. Both are wrong.
Consider the four modes whereby the Buddha preached his dharma. The later three modes cannot be established without the first mode (worldly mode), preaching according to the conventional understanding of the world, which allows us to deeply develop our faith. Without this worldly mode, we cannot build up our willingness and determination of detachment, not to mention to understand the inner truth of Buddhahood.
Through our invoking the Buddha-name at the phenomenal level, we can reach the level of inner truth (noumenon). Then, Amitabha and his retinue of saints appear before us: this is our inherent True Nature becoming manifest. Also, we are born in the Pure Land and see Amitabha and hear his teaching: this is perfecting the body of wisdom of our True Nature. This is not awakening through something other than us.
The Pure Land teaching is profound and wondrous. It destroys all sophistry and cuts off all delusive views. Only those with the wisdom of Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Chih-i and Yung-ming can take it up completely. Those of worldly intelligence, the common followers of Confucianism and the fans of Zen, may try to figure it out to the limit of their powers, but the more they think about it, the farther off they get. In terms of being able to reach the wisdom of the Buddhas and mesh with the wonders of the Path, such intellectuals are not as good as simple men and women who recite the Buddha-name in all sincerity.
"I have seen this benefit and so I speak these words". Buddha's eye and Buddha's voice clearly affirm this truth, so how can we dare to go against it? Shouldn't we accept it?
This concludes the commentary on the main body of the sutra.