[Main portion of 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, 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.
 

[Description of the Pure Land]

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.

Now let us look at the first part.  [Buddha says to Shariputra:]

"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 know every kind of joy.
Sentient beings are the ones who receive [the benefits of the Pure Land]. All sentient beings can be said to have inherent enlightenment. But here we are talking in the language of everyday people, using the lowest to stand for the highest.

In this mundane world of ours, the world called "Endurance", suffering and happiness intermingle. We suffer when we suffer pain, because it harries the body and the mind. When we are happy we soon suffer the pain of disintegration, since happiness does not remain for long. When we are neither suffering nor happy, we still suffer the pain of transiency, 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...

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 components of the Path [the four mindfulnesses, the four right efforts, the four bases of miraculous power, the five roots, the five powers, the seven factors of Enlightenment, and the eightfold path]. The four precious jewels represent the four qualities of enlightenment: that it is eternal, blissful, personal, and pure.

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 merit, 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).]

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 many jewelled ponds filled with the waters of eight virtues. The bottom of each of the ponds is pure golden sand, and the stepped walkways that lead up from all four sides of each of the ponds are made of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and crystal. Above the ponds there are towers which are adorned with silver and gold and lapis lazuli and crystal and mother of pearl and red 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.[14]
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: it is pure and clear, unlike the turbid water of our world; it is clear and cool, unlike the water of our world, which is either too cold or too hot; it has a sweet pleasing taste, unlike the water of our world, which has an inferior taste, being either salty or alkaline; it is light and limpid, unlike the heavy water of our world; it is sparkling bright, unlike the murky water of our world; it is peaceful, unlike the turbulent water of our world; it eliminates hunger and thirst, unlike the water of our world which makes us shiver; it always nurtures the capacities of sentient beings, unlike the water of our world which 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 golden 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 silver and gold and crystal and mother of pearl and red agate, 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 enter a teaching assembly, see Amitabha Buddha, and hear the Dharma being preached.

The bodies that are born from these lotuses are shining with light, and the lotus-wombs themselves are also shining with light.

The colored lights of 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, unobstructed, formless, and not sense-objects. 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 sentient beings to multiply their good roots, and with his great deeds he creates the conditions for sentient beings to increase their merits. Amitabha enables us to develop faith and vows and to recite the Buddha-name, and 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 toto 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 tawny gold. Flowers in the shape of heavenly orbs rain down at all hours of the day and night. Every morning the sentient beings of this land decorate their garments with 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, decorating garments and making offerings 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 tawny 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 flowers that rain down in the Pure Land means both "as we wish" and "white flowers". The clothes people in the Pure Land wear are decorated with wondrous flowers.

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.  Using the language of our mundane world, the sutra speaks of hundreds of billions of Buddhas. The idea is that 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 travel. They go to all the worlds in the ten directions without leaving their own land...

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 it 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 be separated from this mundane world called "Endurance", without really being separated from it.

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. In fact, the Land of Ultimate Bliss encompasses the potential of the Dharmadhatu, (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 transform sentient beings, and the sounds that transform inanimate things.  It tells of the sounds of the birds bringing the benefits of the Dharma, and then briefly answers a question.

Here is the first part:

And there is more still - in this land there are birds of all sorts of wondrous variegated colors: white cranes, peacocks, orioles, myna birds, cuckoos. 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.[15]

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].

Although all Buddhist methods are subsumed under the thirty-seven Limbs of enlightenment, the potentials and circumstances of sentient beings all differ, and so all different forms of the Buddhist teaching have been devised, some open, some closed, using all sorts of terminology. 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. 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 the community of seekers. [See glossary, "Mindfulness of the Buddhas".]

The three forms of contemplation (on emptiness, on relative reality, and on the mean) and the three objects of contemplation (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha) have different aspects but the same essence.

You should use the foregoing brief analysis of the difference among the [thirty-seven limbs of enlightenment] to understand the four levels of the teaching (elementary, common, special, and complete) and the three levels of truth (absolute, relative, and the mean).

In the next passage the sutra briefly answers a question:

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 planes of existence (as animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings) do not exist. In this Buddha-land even the names of the evil planes of existence 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.
It is obvious that the sutra is answering possible objections that might be raised.

Question:  Are birds [as animals] not creatures belonging to one of the evil planes of existence?

The answer is: These birds in the Pure Land are not birds as a result of karmic retribution for having committed evil. They are called birds, but they are all communicating the ultimate merits of the Tathagatas. 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 plane of existence].

Question: What does it mean that these birds are fashioned by Amitabha?

The answer is: There are four reasons for this.

[First], ordinary people take delight in these birds and can be taught by them, since this suits their feelings, and makes them happy. [Second], when the birds express the Dharma, they enable their listeners to become virtuous. [Third], by making us realize that we should not think of these birds in a pejorative way, it counteracts our tendency to make arbitrary distinctions. [Fourth], the birds are Amitabha, which lets us awaken to the everywhere-equal nature of the Dharmakaya, which is inherent in 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, 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 Amitabha Buddha, who is eternal, blissful, personal, and pure.

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 elementary, common, special and complete 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].

By becoming mindful of Three Jewels, sentient beings benefit from reliable truths. 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.  Awakening to the Three Jewels [Buddha, Dharma, 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 guide 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 as a whole forms phenomena, and phenomena as a whole are merged 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 singl emindedly 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 the name of Amitabha.

Thus, the name of Amitabha is the inherently enlightened true nature of sentient beings, and reciting the name of Amitabha reveals this enlightenment. Inherent enlightenment and the enlightenment as it is revealed [through cultivation and realization] are fundamentally not two different things, 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 is boundless, and the light of the Sambhogakaya is in accord with true nature--in this the paths of all the Buddhas are the same. The light of the Nirmanakayas [Emanation 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. We must understand that there are no obstructions among the three Buddha-bodies. From the point of view of ordinary people, if their affinity with the Buddhas is deep, then the light of the Buddhas will reach them everywhere, and always appear to them in its complete fullness in all worlds.

 Next the sutra gives the definition of the name Amitabha as "Infinite Life":

Also, the life span of this Buddha and his people  is  an  infinite  number  of immeasurable eons, and so he is called Amitabha.
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.

When Amitabha was Dharmakara, the king of vows, he made a vow that the life spans of both Buddhas and humans [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"...

We must understand that the names "Infinite Light" and "Infinite Life" are both based on [the equivalent potential inherent in] 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 they are saved themselves, and 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 name of Amitabha apart from the 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!

Now comes the section of the sutra that describes Amitabha and his retinue:

Amitabha  Buddha  attained enlightenment ten eons ago.
The life span of Amitabha Buddha is infinite, and here when the sutra just speaks of ten eons, this is just a provisional way of teaching. In fact Amitabha's time has been endless, and he has urged, is urging, and will 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 Buddhas, and accomplish this all in one lifetime.

The sutra goes on to speak of Amitabha's innumerable disciples who are Arhats, Bodhisattvas, and one-life Bodhisattvas. All of them achieved their status during the past ten eons.  Here the sutra is really illustrating the fact 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 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...

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 who follow him, 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 too, from moment to moment.

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.

This section is in two pans. The first part reveals the supreme causal basis [for rebirth in the Pure Land], and the second part extols the special excellence of the Pure Land.

[What is the special excellence of the Pure Land?] Sentient beings can be reborn there carrying their karmic load with them, and thereby transcend the triple world "horizontally." [Amitabha's Pure Land] is a pure land where saints and ordinary beings dwell together, but it 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, special, and complete].

Sentient beings who are born in Amitabha's Pure Land purify the Four Lands completely, see the three Buddha-bodies perfectly, 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.

Now the first passage:

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 position: having entered the holy stream [four levels of sagehood culminating in Arhatship], they do not fall back to the level of gods and men. 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-knowledge...

In Amitabha's Pure Land, the ten forms of mindfulness are fully developed, and 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 position, from their practice, or from their mindfulness...

According to the doctrines of the non-Pure Land Buddhist scriptures, 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, where saints and ordinary beings dwell together, 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 for the ultimate reality of the true nature of mind, if not for the special effect of reciting the Buddha-name, if not for the great vows of Amitabha?

[In the non-Pure Land Buddhist scriptures] the stage of having only one lifetime to go before enlightenment  is  generally  attributed  only  to Bodhisattvas. 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 for a certain 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 given 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 truth has been sacrificed. All I can do to set things right is give my heart's blood.

At this point in the sutra, Buddha gives a specific admonition:

When sentient beings hear [of the Land of Ultimate Bliss], they must take a vow to be born in this land. Why so? So that 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 expound 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 holy live together. There are sages of real attainment, who still carry some past impure karma, and sages adept in provisional expedients, with their vows of great compassion, so ordinary people in the Pure Land get to live together with holy sages. There are real saints whose desires have been extinguished, and teachers with skill in means whose entanglements have been ended. They differ widely in levels of attainment, and of bliss, but for the time being they are together in the Pure Land.

In our mundane world, on the other hand, those who 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.

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 Amitabha's Pure Land is a place where saints and ordinary beings dwell together, what they do and what they 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 Bodhisattvas with enlightenment equal to the Buddhas. 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 open up enlightened perception, 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 pure 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 invoke 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 Mind of Supreme Enlightenment. In sum, faith and vows are truly the guiding compass to the Pure Land. Relying on faith and vows and consistently invoking 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 and 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.

[Practice]

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, blessings, 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.[16]

Good roots stem from the Bodhi Mind, the direct causal basis. Other meritorious actions that promote the path, such as charity, discipline, and meditation, bring merits and virtues.[17]

Literalist disciples of the Lesser Vehicle (shravakas) and Pratyeka Buddhas, have few good roots. The meritorious deeds and virtues of human beings and gods, defiled as they are, are also few. These will not enable you to be born in the Pure Land. 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 merits. 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 impression is made and the seal is lifted -- Amitabha and his holy retinue come to you without coming, and extend a hand to lead you off. You, the person practicing Buddha-name recitation, recognize Amitabha in your mind, and 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 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 virtue, all the virtues are engendered. 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".

Reciting the Buddha-name is a matter of being mindful of the Buddha-name from moment to moment --thus it is the "wisdom that comes from reflecting [on what you heard]".
 

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 created by the 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 creation 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 it 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 illusions 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 Body, along with his whole retinue of holy ones. Your mind will no longer create the delusions of desire, form, and formlessness characteristic 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 for sudden Complete Enlightenment. Since [in reciting the Buddha-name] you merge 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 [for those of different faculties].

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 Sambhogakaya 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 Nirmanakaya, 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...

Question: Masters like T'ien-ch'i and Tu-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 Zen meditation?

Answer: This idea comes from Master T'ien-ch'i himself as well as other masters. Master T'ien-ch'i 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, which is that it is our True Mind, not our deluded errant mind, which should do the recitation [i.e. recitation should be singleminded with no deluded errant thoughts]. When he taught this it was like the dawn returning after a long night.

If we are unwilling to still our minds [by following Master T'ien-ch'i's advice to contemplate "Who is the one reciting the Buddha-name?"] 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 grandparents [our Mind]": we are rebelling against our own patriarchal teachers and doing evil, rather than obeying them and being good.

Question:  Those who are willing to still their minds by reciting the Buddha name will be alright, but how can those who are unwilling to still their minds achieve accord with the Buddha's Mind?

Answer: Alas! The reason that Master T'ien-ch'i is asking you to be willing to still your minds by reciting the Buddha name and reach accord [with the Buddha's Mind] is 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] has given us a saying that is like a great mass of fire lighting the "Buddha recitation Samadhi":  "Without using any other expedients than Buddha recitation, you manage to open your own mind." Who dares to touch this saying? How can you not be burned 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 Zen follower 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 focussing on the Buddha. Thus in his case [cause and effect coincide] and his mind is in unison with that of the Buddhas. The appearance of the Buddha is therefore not a 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 facing death.

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 be 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 he be so lucky? [Master Tien J'us 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: A hundred billion worlds are 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 reflected in the Great-Perfect-Wisdom-Mirror of the Ocean-Seal Samadhi.[18]

Question: Reciting the Buddha-name is a partial 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 reciting the Buddha-name is called the cause and condition for good roots, merits and virtues. 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 evils that have accumulated from time without beginning.

We must understand that all of space could not contain our accumulated evils, 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 day and night 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 an 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.

When Sakyamuni Buddha was in the world, there was an old man who asked to become a monk. The congregation of five hundred monks all said the old man was lacking in good roots.  Buddha however said: "Countless ages ago this man was being pursued by a tiger, and cried out "Nam Mo Amitabha 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, as well as the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, show that even those who invoked the Buddha-name in a scattered, 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]. But the True Mind of those who recite it is also truly inconceivable. If you recite the Buddha-name once, you are inconceivable for the time the sound of it lasts. If you recite it ten or a hundred or a thousand or a million times, or countless times, you are inconceivable all the while the sound of your recitation lasts.

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 Five Corruptions, purify the Four Lands, and reach the level where they do not fall back from their position, their practice, or their mindfulness. This is the benefit brought about by the inconceivable merit of the Buddha-name.

With reference to what happens when we die, this benefit is that our minds do not fall into delusion and error.  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 karma that you have not cleared away [by the time you are about to die], you will plunge into an untoward rebirth -- 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 the 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, and rely on 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 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.

Through our invoking the Buddha-name both at the phenomenal level and at the level of inner truth (noumenon), Amitabha and his retinue of saints appears 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 ourselves.

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 followers of Confucianism and the devotees 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.

The Pure Land method of developing faith and vows and reciting the Buddha-name both perfectly subsumes and perfectly surpasses all other Buddhist methods. Vertically, it intermingles with all the Buddhist teachings; horizontally, it stands apart from them.[19]

Buddha spontaneously gave this Pure Land teaching without being asked.[20] Who is worthy to extol it and transmit it? Only when a Buddha communicates with a Buddha is it possible to fully express the absolute reality of all the teachings. This Amitabha Sutra is about a Buddha-realm, and it can only be transmitted from Buddha to Buddha.
 
 

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