Preface # 1
Elder Master Yin Kuang
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The Dharma of Pure Land can assist people of three different potentials to attain liberation, and may be accepted and upheld by practitioners independent of their mental capacities. However, the Pure Land practice is more relevant to the laity. Lay people have to make a living or take care of their families and it is not easy for them to find the time needed for the study of sutras or for the practice of Ch'an; only the method of reciting 'Buddha' can harmonize both with the theory and with the potential. Those reciting "Amida Buddha" sincerely and single-mindedly until their obstacles and karma have come to a halt will see their original face the way it was before they were born, and the true nature of Tathagata Garbha. Between now and the end of this life, the superior class must be attained in the Pure Land in the West. Perhaps the practitioner cannot bring his/her karma to a halt and cannot abandon attachment because of some inferior root. Assisted by the Buddha and supported by true faith and a sincere vow the adept can elicit the Tao of Bodhi and obtain rebirth in Pure Land regardless of his/her karma. The wonderful Dharma of Pure Land is like this. A Ch'an adept who studies the teachings but does not understand the meaning and has not relinquished the obstacles of ignorance and karma must be reborn in the cycle of birth and death and cannot leave samsara. One should not be presumptuous, lest one be pitied by those countless worldings who were reborn in the Western Pure Land in spite of their karma. How unfortunate that those who benefit the most are usually average. The clever ones most often quit because they prefer to be self-reliant rather than surrender to Buddha. That view costs them their liberation; unable to leave the Saha world, they repeatedly return to transmigration. What a pity.
Many sages of antiquity who have followed in the footsteps of the compassionate Buddha advocated Pure Land practice and wrote commentaries to that effect. Translated long ago into classical Chinese, these texts are most difficult to relate due to the language and they are not easy to comprehend by those without previous introduction to the terminology of the ancient masters. Upasaka Lee Yuan Chin succeeded in conveying the integral content of Pure Land sutras in this booklet, using idiomatic language; the following ten chapters do not contain a single word originating outside these sutras, or upasaka Lee Yuan Chin's own views. This work is viewed as an excellent introduction to Buddhism and therefore it is listed as a library series. Wishing to encourage people to study and practice the Buddhist way, the authorities have decided to reissue this work using large characters, making it accessible to those with impaired vision; I was invited to write the preface, thereby encouraging people to generate the right faith. No more words are needed; all the important meaning is contained in the pages that follow. The dharma of Pure Land is the Dharma Ocean to which all the other dharmas return. Those who believe in this teaching and practice accordingly can attain rebirth in Pure Land in this life: They will enlighten themselves and others, thereby attaining perfect enlightenment. Should anyone have a problem with this statement, that is not my responsibility; it is the responsibility of Shakyamuni Buddha and of Amita Buddha.
Written in the year of Hsin Wei, on June 19.
Preface # 2
Elder Fan Ku Nung
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Some say it is always the best policy to go with the flow, while others say the opposite. The latter stand firm amid adversity, thereby preventing a situation from deteriorating. Quite a contrast, wouldn't you say? All of us human beings partake in this world and therefore each of our actions should aim to benefit all. But how can we follow this teaching, burdened as we are with all the evil karma accumulated during previous existences? Since time immemorial, confused due to our karma, we were reborn over and over again with an impure five-skandha body into this Saha world at the time of the five turbidities. Were we not forewarned, we might be forgiven. However, countless buddhas, bodhisattvas, patriarchs and dharma masters have exhorted, encouraged and taught us expediently to no avail. We do not wish to heed their teachings and we prefer to settle for a place that is inferior. Great Master Ou I said that "sentient beings born in this kalpa of turbidity who do not act in the manner required to cross the three realms with their karma cannot be saved. Sentient beings that suffer from turbidity of view and yet do not recourse to expedient means cannot free themselves. Sentient beings who, afflicted by turbid views, fail to understand that the worldly mind and the buddha-mind are the same and fail to practice accordingly cannot be saved. Sentient beings suffering from the turbidity of living, who do not foster an inclination to Pure Land practice and a dislike for this Saha world, likewise cannot be saved. If such sentient beings do not spend kalpas in diligent practice they have no hope for salvation." It appears that we must not delay any longer if we wish to be reborn in Pure Land. According to the sutras, the Buddha stated that Pure Land teaching will survive the rest of the teachings by one hundred years. Why cannot we understand the importance of this teaching in the dharma-ending age? Most people prefer the eastern Pure Land means to seek a long life in this world due to attachment. To be reborn in the western Pure Land one must practice by oneself and accept dependence on the Buddha as well. Whoever does not generate the Bodhi-mind cannot be reborn in Pure Land. To the one who asks if this matter can wait, thinking that there is no need to start now, I answer that from the point of the past, the present was once the future. The future is inherent in the present. A year passes like a dream and the awakening takes only a moment. How can there be discussion of "sooner or later". The Vajracchedika-prajnaparamita sutra says that when all sentient beings have been released not one of them has been in fact extinguished. Just allow the Dharma of Pure land to spread far and wide so all sentient beings can work out their own salvation and let us not worry about who is delivered by whom. Elder Lee Yuan Chin's writing is completely integral with Buddhadharma and with the teachings of the Pure Land sect; it flows and presents the main ideas in a way that is easy to understand. This booklet is going to be included in the library publications series on Buddhism, this spreading Dharma and converting sentient beings. I wrote these few words to help the world get rid of delusion.
Written in the summer of the year Hsin Wei.
History of Pure Land Sect
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Of all the Buddhist sects in China, Pure Land is the most popular. It urges its adherents to generate a vow to be reborn in Buddha's country, namely, in the Western Pure Land. The region is glorified in many of the Mahayana sutras, particularly in those having Pure Land for topic. The Pratyupanna, Pei Hwa, Ratnakuta and several others are sutras that clearly set forth both the significance and the goals of Pure Land practice and therefore should be considered as its sources. In his Awakening of Faith, Asvaghosa Bodhisattva recommends recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name and exhorts devotees to seek rebirth in the Western Pure Land. Nagarjuna Bodhisattva dedicated one chapter and twelve sections to the subject of easy practice, while Vashubandhu Bodhisattva wrote a treatise on rebirth in Pure Land. All above mentioned writings propagate Pure Land.
Pure Land teachings have reached China at the same time as the rest of textual Buddhadahrma and the Pure Land practice was initiated by the great Dharma-master Hui Yuan during the eastern Chin Dynasty (317-420 A. D.), the first one to practice sincere recitation of the Buddha's name. He established the Lotus Society at Mount Lu in Kiangsi Province, a place that was frequented by numerous Dharma-masters and by renown adherents of Confucianism. Hundreds responded to one call. Dharma-masters T'an Luan, Chi Che, Tao Cho, Shan Tao, Chin Liang and Yung Ming subsequently spread the Dharma of Pure Land for the benefit of others as well as their own. Ch'an masters Chang Lu, T'ien I, Yuen Whao, Ta T'ung, Chung Feng, T'ien Ru, Chu Shih and K'ung Ku intergrated Pure Land practice with that of their sect. The great master Lien Chih of the Ming Dynasty, who was first introduced to Pure Land by Hsiao Yen Chih, understood its significance and adopted its practice, feeling that karma purified by those means complements and supports the practice of Ch'an. Dharma masters Ou I, Chih Liu, Hsing An and Meng Tung followed Lien Chih's example and practiced Pure Land.
The Avatamsaka sutra, held to be the leading sutra of Mahayana, contains a section dedicated to Samantabhadra Bodhisattva and to his ten Great Vows orientating sentient beings towards rebirth in Pure Land. He should therefore be considered the first patriarch of Pure Land. Initially, the great master Hui Yuan had no intention of establishing a Pure Land sect in China. He merely hoped that people would generate the Great Vow. The popularity of Pure Land steadily increased during the last thousand years despite the fact that it had no structured approach of its own to the teachings. It was not until the Sung Dynasty that the seven Pure Land Patriarchs were selected from among the most celebrated of its masters renowned for their pure motives and great merit. Hsiao Fa Shih of Shih Ming Mountain whose focus was exclusively on Pure Land, selected Hui Yuan, Shan Tao, Cheng Yuan, Fa Chao, Shao K'ang, Yen Shou and Hsing Chang. Subsequently Dharma-master Chih Pan recorded for posterity all information deemed necessary for a well rounded teaching of Pure Land. In the years that followed, additional luminaries have joined the roster, raising the number of Pure Land Patriarchs to eleven. An illustrious disciple Yun Chi voted in the great master Lien Chih; inclusion of Ou I, Hsing An and Chi Wu was motivated by respect for these illustrious forefathers. This feature distinguishes Pure Land from Ch'an; the tradition of the latter was established gradually and required many successive generations to become fully established. The practice of Pure Land aims to save all regardless of potential and therefore it is a blend of wide variety of dharmas. It can be considered the source of all dharmas to which they all return. This also explains the absence of a rigid system.
In Praise of Pure Land
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The preceding brief glance at the history of Pure Land school conveyed that Shakyamuni Buddha and Amitabha Buddha were the sources of its teaching; Manjusri and Samantabhadra Bodhisattvas expounded it; Asvaghosa and Nagarjuna imbued the teachings with vigor; Kuang Lu, T'ien Tai, Chin Liang, Yung Ming, Lien Chih and Ou I propagated it. Thousand of years ago countless bodhisattvas searched, found and selected Pure Land, thereby giving all of us the opportunity to end the cycle of birth and death and be reborn (with karma) in the Pure Land in this very life. Pure Land Dharma is both accessible and profound, expedient yet authentic. The attainment that its practice leads to is sudden, complete, perfect and easy. By including the teachings of Ch'an and Vinaya, it surpasses them both. Considering pure land in the context of the Tathagata's teachings, the two following features become apparent: Firstly, there is the adaptability of the teachings to suit a given potential. Since potentials vary, the conditions may be deep or shallow, the teaching should be correspondingly great or small depending on and in harmony with an individual's potential. Pure Land is the only sect that makes liberation accessible to those of all three levels and accommodates both sharp and dull capacities equally well. According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Tathagata spoke the supreme Dharma to forty-one great bodhisattvas soon after his great awakening. The Avatamsaka, reputed to be the highest among sutras, closes with a narrative about Sudana, a virtuous youth who, in search of enlightenment, visits fifty three great sages prior to the attainment of his goal. One of his hosts is Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, who teaches Sudana the ten Great Vows so that not only Sudana, but all those present at the time, may obtain rebirth in Pure Land. The Amitabha Sutra recommends that for their practice to be successful, those less well qualified should use a less demanding method. Their karma probably contains some unwholesome elements, but they surely accumulated some good roots in their previous existences. When life reaches its end and hell appears before their eyes, these people still can be guided by Buddha to rebirth in Pure Land, providing they recite "Buddha Amitabha" [with all their hearts] at least ten times. The Mahasamgata sutra reveals that in the Dharma-ending age there will be countless practitioners, but very few will succeed in attaining liberation; they will be able, however, to reverse the round of birth and death by accepting dependency on recitation of the Buddha's name. This teaching can be explained as follows: Upward it aims at bodhisattvahood and the complete and perfect enlightenment; moving downward, it makes attainment possible for those with unwholesome, mundane concerns. We notice how much wider this spectrum is compared to the customary one polarizing the holy and the worldly. Pure Land practice is open to everyone. Had the Buddha not taught this Dharma, by what means would sentient beings end the rounds of birth and death? Some look down on the practice of reciting "Buddha" because it is easy; even the dullest can do it. Such people are advised to take a look at the gathering of the Avatamsaka and those forty Mahasattvas who eradicated their ignorance and saw the true nature of dharmas. All took the original vow, were transformed and all attained buddhahood in a world without a buddha. Although the Avatamsaka (Hua Yen in Chinese) realm contains untold buddha-fields or lands, all the participants wish to be short route to enlightenment and away from suffering.
Secondly, the Dharma of recitation of the Buddha's name accommodates those practicing the path of self-reliance, eradicating delusion, and attaining truth by bringing the cyclic pattern of birth and death to a halt. Because the teaching of the recitation of the Buddha's name brings the power of Buddha to the practitioner, anyone who has eradicated delusion can attain buddhahood quickly. Those who have not broken off delusion can likewise be reborn in Pure Land, burdened with karma as they may be. Pure Land practice has benefited multitudes because it is so easy; yet fully enlightened bodhisattvas can obtain advantage from it as well.
These reasons should make the practice attractive, because it is conducive to great results with small effort and because, though easy, the practice may lead to the highest attainment.
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The great master Shan Tao said that "If you seek to learn and understand Buddhadharma, you should start with the mundane and proceed from there. As to practice, select the method you feel is best suited for you, stay with it and concentrate on it. This is the only way to obtain real benefit. Any other approach will take you through countless rounds of birth and death for many kalpas to come." Pure Land is adaptable to principle and to potential, both. One can enter the Path through either of the two gates described as follows: The customary one leads to wisdom by means of meditation and self-discipline; eventually delusion is eradicated and truth is attained. The other is the path Pure Land. It consists of holding and reciting the Buddha's name and surrendering to the Buddha's compassion; combined, the two features lead a practitioner to rebirth in Pure Land. It is called the particular path.
By analogy, to paint a landscape requires countless brushstrokes whereby the paint is applied one stroke at a time. By that method the painting is developed and completed. Using a camera, one glance and one click of the camera replace the glances and the brushstrokes typical of the painting process.
Using another example, one needs many steps when walking to one's destination, but the use of a vehicle reduces considerably the time and energy needed to complete one's journey. I would like to mention at this time the manner in which teachings are assimilated as confirmed by saints. The first stage is holding the teaching; the second is cultivation and the third, complete understanding. There is no further need of study thereafter. The teachings should encompass and illumine all dharmas excluding none. In the practice of Ch'an, the adept must pass through three gates; without this structure the practice turns into blind or aimless activity and he/she is bound to fall into a pit.
One of the essential scriptures of the Pure Land school is called the Amitabha Sutra, and contains teaching not requested by an audience. The first sentence tuns as follows: "To the West from here, beyond millions of buddhalands, there is a world named Utmost Joy, where the Buddha named Amida is preaching now". Whoever wishes to be reborn in the western Pure Land should vow to that effect, and from then on recite sincerely and without interruption the Buddha's name to fulfill his/her vow. In that region one's own buddha-mind can be perceived in the same way the sravaks and other great sages perceived it. It is a view held by the Buddha himself, and therefore we should entrust ourselves to it and adopt it for our own.
It is no longer necessary to seek another way. The standard method is rooted in the three studies, namely discipline, meditation and wisdom. Discipline is required to sustain meditation, meditation fosters wisdom and wisdom servers ignorance and delusory views that deceive consciousness. That method is clear cut, but there have been concerns about back-sliding in cases where those of inferior capacities could not overcome their limitations. The Pure Land practice is different because it relies on an "other-power," which assists practitioners in overcoming their problems with practice. With Amitabha's help they can be reborn in the western Pure Land. Whoever follows the customary approach to practice is expected to relinquish delusory thought patterns and failing that cannot leave this Saha world where saints and villains dwell side by side. The Pure Land sect advocates the view that relinquishing delusions and acquiring wisdom are not necessary prerequisites for liberation from the three realms. Those reborn in the western Pure Land have broken off their root of birth and death forever. When practicing according to Pure Land teachings, the adherents do not seek enlightenment nor wisdom, nor do they relinquish their delusions. It is a direct and easy practice. It is my sincere conviction that we are not able to become buddhas at present, and there is neither the evidence of evil karma being eradicated, nor the assurance that it will not be produced again in the future. Concentrating on practice according to Pure Land and surrendering to the Buddha's compassion leads to rebirth in Pure Land with one's karma, whatever it may be. The other option may mean further rounds in the six realms, in the three ways. We ought to give some thought to our last moments and to the liberation from birth and death. How can we avoid facing past evil karma in our last moments? If we cannot exit the rounds of birth and death in this very life, when will we have another chance? In the three unhappy realms there are no guarantees regarding our defilements. If we can come to understand by means of our faith and resolve to practice, we would be drawing benefit from this great opportunity. Do not be swayed by pride; it might mean sinking into the ocean of suffering till the end of time. It should be clearly understood that the goal of Buddhaharma is to end the cycle of birth and death; we cannot succeed if our practice is perfunctory and that would be a great pity.
Principle and Action
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Those able to understand both Ch'an and Pure land planted good roots in their previous lives. Such persons do not cling to principle while refraining from aciton nor do they seek principle that is removed from action. They perceive them both as propensities of mind; being completely free from doubt in that respect, there is no further need to be prodded by others. Due to their understanding, such persons are in position to determine their rebirth in the uppermost tier of Pure Land, in the golden lotus.
There is a fair amount of talk about the principle, but it is mostly superficial and as soon as someone attempts to explain this matter at some depth, little or no effort is made to comprehend and there are usually no signs of faith being generated. While giving a lecture, I have been frequently asked peripheral questions before I had the chance to broach the topic. One of the sages from antiquity commented that "Pure Land is one's own mind, Amitabha one's own nature." Pure Land is not outside one's own mind and Amitabha is not outside one's own nature, which is both principle and action. They are the perfect manifestation of nature and form. People who have never met someone truly attained may become confused when they meet someone who claims there is no Pure Land and no Amitabha outside one's own mind and one's own nature and there is no need to search further. Whoever clings to his/her own views in such manner and does not hold Pure Land and Amitabha as truly existing neither understands Ch'an nor Pure Land.
Some people believe in Pure Land but practice Ch'an in hope of becoming enlightened; there is no need for rebirth in Pure Land or to see Amitabha then, they feel. Mind is identical with its domain and vice versa; there is no other option. Being interchangeable, the two are inseparable. There is no contradiction in reciting "Buddha" or "mind" and whoever has a problem with that has fallen into duality. We have to understand the nature of mind as single thought, as unobstructed as space, transcending time. When thought is firmly anchored on Amitabha, it reaches out in the ten directions, and when mouth recites Amitabha's name at the same time, the resultant person and the dependent condition become one. Reciting "Buddha" with a focussed mind enables the practitioner to see the Buddha and to become buddha, transcending time. While seeking rebirth in Pure Land, the practitioner is converting sentient beings because in reality there is no front or back; mind is both buddha and sentient beings. When we say the mind is amitabha, then he holds all sentient beings in his mind; mind as sentient beings beholds Amitabha, thereby becoming unified. Manifestations of Pure Land take place in one's mind. At such time, the manifestations of one's mind become the manifestations of buddha; my mind is buddha-mind and buddha-mind is my mind: There is just one, undifferentiated substance. The mind of sentient beings is their Amitabha mind, Amitabha being a projection of the sentient beings' minds. How could Amitabha dwell in the minds of sentient beings and not have sentient beings dwell in his?
When we use our original buddha-mind for the recitation of "Buddha", we cannot not have the mind of the historical Buddha. It sounds complicated but it is easy to believe. If you practice, you will clearly derive benefits from it, and the results will be permanent. Pure Land is just mind, and Amitabha is merely one's own nature, but that does not imply that there is not any Pure Land in the West or that there is no Amitabha and no need to seek rebirth. Neither does it disclose mind and self-nature as the only conditions of birth and death. We must understand that to seek buddha is to seek one's own mind. When seeking one's own mind one is seeking buddha.
Understanding that mind has the propensity to become Pure Land does not mean being there; knowing that Amitabha is one's own self-nature does not imply knowing Amitabha. But people do not realize it is not enough to think about these matters. A partial understanding of the doctrine is onesided and inevitably results in problems.
In Pure land, attachment resulting from greed does not arise, nor do the remaining two poisons, namely anger and ignorance. This raises the question whether one can be without all that. Think about clothes or food and clothes or food come; but suppose they do not come: Feeling hungry and dejected, you quickly realize Pure Land is not merely a matter of mind or imagination. Amitabha has the potential of untold blessings and the power to make the world tremble: Hell can change into a lotus under his steady gaze as he observes the world. We lack the power to sustain our own existence, let alone to transform hell into a lotus. We have built the walls that separate us from our intuitive insight and now we cannot understand infinity. Some reject western Pure Land in the belief that it stands for birth and death, and choose eastern Pure Land instead; little do they know they chose annihilation. Neither accepting nor rejecting is a mark of an enlightened mind and whoever picks and chooses, though having eradicated delusion, has not attained buddhahood yet.
Sakyamuni Buddha cultivated good causes for an inconceivably long period of time and perfected virtues for just as long. As we follow him on his enlightening path we move up. Simultaneously, we reach in the opposite direction, saving sentient beings, and there is neither a space nor time to be found wherein judgements could be formulated or distinctions made. For the practice of Ch'an accepting and rejection are both wrong, but for the recitation of the Buddha's name, accepting and rejecting are both right. Ch'an is self-reliant while recitation practice is reliant on a power of the Buddha. There is much misunderstanding regarding these two methods and at times they are pitted against one another. Non-discriminating mind is the sweet dew of Ch'an. It turns to poison in the recitation of the Buddha's name: This is the key point of that controversy.
In the words of a sage from long ago, "A rebirth in Pure Land means a decision to be reborn; going to Pure Land is not really going." First part of that sentence speaks of principle. They complement each other and jointly bring the combination of principle and action to perfection. This wonderful teaching is unfortunately misunderstood by most and the paradigm or principle and action that it advances is frequently overlooked. Most of those in Pure Land practice engage in the activity but never give thought to the principle. Not understanding that "going to Pure Land" does not mean literally going somewhere, but that the action is in the decision and in the rebirth, they overlook how the action assists the principle at the expense of action produces an intellectual vacuum, but clinging to action at the expense of principle still makes rebirth in Pure Land possible. This method was devised out of compassion for the uninformed multitude and makes the Buddha's enlightening path accessible to them even if they do not understand its principle. Reciting "Amitabha" does nor signify the great enlightenment. Just holding on to the Buddha's name while reciting, caring neither about understanding nor enlightenment, will reduce evil karma.
Ch'an adepts should recite the Buddha's name to prevent backsliding and those who have selected Pure Land practice should settle in it and not consider any other. It is essential to establish your faith firmly, recite the Buddha's name holding on to it till it becomes completely familiar and from then on refrain from reciting with your mouth. Continue with recitation using your mind alone until the Buddha's name becomes permanently entrenched in it. When the Buddha is mind and mind is the Buddha, the Tripitaka, the twelve divisions of the Mahayana Canon and the seventeen hundred supreme koans become manifest. Three thousand revered rules for renunciants and eighty thousand fine actions are included in that instant. Whoever practices this way does not generate greed, hatred and ignorance and that is true discipline. Reciting without thoughts of self, others, right or wrong is cultivation of patience and eliminating all interruptions to the recitation is practicing zeal. If no false thought arises during recitation, this is a sign of correct meditation, and a distancing oneself from confusion when reciting is the mark of wisdom. The great master Lien Chi put it as follows: "One mention of Amitabha includes all of the eight teachings and perfectly accommodates the five sects." (The five major Buddhist sects in China of his time). The misunderstanding of recitation of the Buddha's name is rooted in a perception that is shallow, and that is where the problem lies.
Dependent Condition and Resultant Person
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All Tathagatas in the ten directions are endowed with the same attributes; why then concentrate on Amitabha to the exclusion of all others, is the question. The first reason is a deep, great vow; the second, a favorable condition in this Saha world; and third, the relation of Amitabha to the teachings. We know the vow is deep and important because Amitabha generated forty-eight great vows prior to his great enlightenment and three of these directly concern sentient beings practicing recitation of the Buddha's name. The three vows are as follows: "If there should be, subsequent to my enlightenment, one sentient being capable of generating buddha-mind, adorned with many kinds of merit who makes a sincere vow with aspiration to be reborn in western Pure Land; or, upon hearing my name, recites it with a one-pointed mind for one night and day; or, wishing wholeheartedly to be reborn in Pure Land is suffused with sincere faith and joy and recites my name ten-times; if such s sentient being is not reborn in the western Pure Land, I shall not attain buddhahood."
The favorable conditions in Saha world mentioned above are revealed in sutras. The Sukhavativyuha sutra says: "ŠI speak this sutra to let people see the Buddha and his country, namely Pure Land, wherein all virtues can be sought following my final nirvana and to dispel all doubt. When all my teachings have vanished and there is no more Dharma left in the world, one sutra will survive for a hundred years more. Whoever listens to that Amitabha Sutra with grateful heart will have all his/her wishes fulfilled, including complete enlightenmentŠWhen all sutras have vanished and no Dharma is to be found in the world, the name of Amitabha Buddha will save sentient beings." The reach of these conditions is long, wide and deep. Whoever has faith and recites the name of Amitabha Buddha can enter Pure Land. It does not make any difference if they have heard any dharma at all; or if they are monks, nuns, laity, men, women, nobility, rich, or poor. Everyone can repeat the Buddha's name, including the one who has never heard any Dharma, the one without faith, the foolish, and the evil one. Whoever finds himself/herself in troubled circumstances or in a dangerous situation can spontaneously recite "Amitabha". Such is the extent of these conditions.
In what way is Pure Land related to this world? According to the view of a wise forefather, there are two methods to regulate sentient beings: Subdue evil and become receptive to good. The holy manifest itself in Pure Land and in the Saha world alike, i.e., in the pure and the impure worlds alike. Due to that feature, the two worlds complement each other. Suffering makes people surrender to their difilements and generate aversion to this Saha world. Amitabha's land, by contrast, open one's view on a permanent and irreversible Bliss. Sentient beings are encouraged to dislike this world and yearn for rebirth in Pure Land where the circumstances are happy and enjoyable. Some beings have heard Sakyamuni's teachings but have not succeeded in exiting the three realms and therefore are still around. They can be helped by Amitabha. In that sense this Saha world and Amitabha's western Pure Land are mutually relevant. Amitabha Buddha praises his land and never misses an occasion to urge sentient beings to be reborn in his western paradise. That is a reflection of the relationship of the two worlds to each other and to the teachings as evidenced in certain Mahayana sutras.
These three profound vows are three ample reasons to revere Amitabha. Each glance at this world evidences the untold suffering sentient beings must endure. In Pure Land they are reborn on a lotus and there are no more rebirths. In this Saha world, there is decay and senility, and the old and obsolete is disposed of and replaced by the new or the current. Change rooted in time falling away by degrees, symptomatic of aging, does not exist in Pure Land. In this world, disease is rampant because the four elements are out of control, but in Pure land the body undergoes transformation, thereby becoming fragrant and clean. Life in Pure Land is eternal and therefore there is no grief due to death. Here a quest for love causes immeasurable suffering because what comes together must separate sooner or later, but in Pure Land there are no personal intimate relationships and consequently no sorrow resulting from loss or separation from the loved one. In this world we have no choice when it comes to people we come into contact with. We cannot avoid those who loathe us any more than we can avoid those we resent. In Pure Land we find ourselves surrounded by the best company and there is no disharmony due to resentment. In this world we witness many kinds of deprivation, but in Pure Land, clothing, nutriment and treasures abound, waiting to be enjoyed at will. Our worldly bodies are filthy and disgusting and some have organs or parts missing, but in Pure Land all bodies are well formed and all faces are radiant. Here we are caught in the cycle of birth and death but in Pure Land we are forever unborn. Due to transmigration, we must suffer in four evil destinations, to wit: The hells, hungry ghosts, animals and vengeful titans, but Pure Land has not as much as the names of these evil ways. In this Saha world we have hills, ravines, rugged roads, we have dust, rocks, thorns, and dirt everywhere. By contrast, the ground in Pure Land is covered with gold, precious gems are used for trees and buildings. Many kinds of flowers, including the lotus, cover the ground as far as the eye can see. The Buddha left this samsaric world and entered his final nirvana long ago, while Maitreya has not arrived yet, and therefore true Dharma is hard to find. But in Pure Land, the land of ultimate bliss, Amitabha is teaching Dharma now. In this world we can admire Avalokitesvara- (Guan Yin in Chinese) and Mahasthama-Mahasattva by their names, but in Pure Land they both become our close friends. In this world our practice is marked by struggle with a bevy of demons and with heterodox ways, but in Pure Land none of these exist. Corruption, dissipation and temptation seduce and confuse practitioners here, but in Pure Land there is no gender and all exist in its pristine state. Sentient beings in this world are troubled by many goblins, monsters and evil animals but in Pure Land the forests, rivers, lakes and birds speak the wonderful Dharma. There is much more to compare but we cannot go into it in any further detail. The few comparisons show the contrast between the two worlds.
Pure Land is a wonderful region ready to receive all sentient beings and to provide them with the opportunity to purify their mind. Our practice is improved and strengthened by surpassing local conditions, and therefore it is particularly important to recommend Pure Land and emphasize its importance. There is one point I would like to make clear: Rebirth in Pure Land does not mean to become a buddha, to live unencumbered till the attainment of Bodhi. We all know how short is life on this earth and that we spend more than one half of it playing and/or sleeping. Furthermore, we have been confused through perpetual rebirths. Let us ask ourselves what can we do to remain confident in view of the fact that we have not reached the stage of enlightenment yet. For this reason alone we should seek rebirth in the western Pure Land.