Part Three

During the specified period for Amidist practice the day begins with recitation of the Amitabha Sutra. For evening exercise, possibly in a Buddhist temple,  the Amitabha Sutra is also read every day.   Recitation of this sutra will enable one to mentally envisage the state of grandeur and beauty accorded to Amitabha and the  Western Paradise.  Actually, what is perceived through the six sensory organs is nothing but the beauty and splendor of the Western Paradise.  Though not having yet been born in the Western Paradise, he has been mentally engulfed by its scenery.  His consciousness is automatically bathed in the atmosphere of its wonder and glory.  When the hour of his death comes at last, the karma of self-cultivation will come to the fore, and all the saints whom he contemplates in his daily invocation of the sacred name of Buddha Amitabha will manifest themselves at this point to lead and receive him in the Western Paradise.  And the pure and wonderful sight of the Western Paradise, which dwells in his mind, in this instant, will materialize and appear before his eyes.

As the saying goes, Amitabha resides in one's own nature, and the Pure Land exists solely in the mind.  All sentient beings are potential Buddhas, and Buddhas are also sentient beings, for both are permeated with the essence of Buddha Nature. The mind is the Pure Land and vice versa, because both are idealistic manifestations.

It all depends on how much effort is put into the practice of Amidism.  If faith is unshakably strong and firm one's own nature becomes Buddha Nature, and vice versa.  As Buddha is endowed with limitless light, so are all sentient beings.  As Buddha possesses limitless light, so do all sentient beings.  Buddha Amitabha has splendor and dignity as a result of his merits.  Likewise, sentient beings also have resultant splendor and dignity from merits.

To quote the Amitahha Sutra, "They[17] are all formed by transformation because Buddha desires to have the words of Dharma propagated." This shows that all the scenes and conditions of the Western Paradise are idealistic manifestations effectuated in accordance with karmic phenomena.  If Buddha Amitabha is able to effectuate such manifestations, there is no reason why sentient beings cannot do the same, since the nature of sentient beings is identical with Buddha Nature.

Therefore, we say that in our own nature there is Amitabha and that in Idealism there is the Pure Land.  As far as nature is concerned, no boundary line can be drawn to separate sentient beings from Buddhas. When speaking of the Pure Land, it is impossible to point out which is idealistic and which is nonidealistic. It is an integral unit, whether it is the Amitabha of the Western Paradise or the Amitabha of one's own Nature, whether it is the Pure Land in the West or the Pure Land in the idealized mind.

However,  it should  be understood that the idealized mind mentioned above does not refer to the deluded mind within a human being under the deceptive influence of the six types of sensory objects.[18]  It refers to the mind from which all dharmas (things) generate. The self-nature mentioned above does not refer to the habitual nature temporarily congregated by the four main components[19] of the human body.  It refers to the self-nature which all sentient beings intrinsically possess.  Amidists who recite the Amitabha Sutra every day should have a good understanding of these points and thereby have their own faith strengthened.

The Amitabha Sutra is a sermon preached by Buddha Sakyamuni, of his own accord, without being asked.  He tells us in this sermon of the grandeur of the Western Paradise and of the rebirth in this Paradise through the practice of Amidism. As far as the significance of the sutra is concerned, it equals the Saddharma-pundarika Sutra (the Lotus Sutra), for the latter was also preached by Buddha without his being asked, to the Honored Arya Sariputra.

Having preached the Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings, Buddha entered samadhi,[20] with both body and mind completely still, and emitted brilliant rays from the urna [21] to illuminate all eighteen-thousand lands of the Eastern Worlds, while displaying all kinds of auspicious signs.  The audience assembled there were thus curious and raised all sorts of doubts and questions.  After Bodhisattvas Maitreya and Manjusri had  answered  the problems  and dispelled the doubts of the congregation, Buddha returned serenely from the samadhi, and without being asked, began to speak to Arya Sariputra.

"The wisdom of the Buddhas is unfathomably deep and unlimitably broad.  The portal of their wisdom is difficult to find and difficult to enter. It is unknown to all the Sravakas [22] and Pratyeka-buddhas...the very profound Dharma which had not been found before is  now attained...To sum up, the immeasurable and boundless Dharma, which had not been found before, is all accomplished by the Buddhas."

The Saddharmapundarika Sutra is the Amitabha Sutra preached in detail, and the Amitabha Sutra is the Saddharmapundarika Sutra in summary. Both sutras relate entirely rational facts. In contrast to other sutras which expound many terms in connection with  Dharmalakshana [23]  and pursuade  people to understand the principles and to work on self-cultivation, these two sutras deal only with perception of phenomenal reality by the direct reasoning mind. This will become evident to all of us after a juxtapositional comparison and study of the Saddharmapundarika Sutra and the Amitabha Sutra.

The Saddharmapundarika Sutra is comprised of twenty-eight chapters in seven volumes.  The first fourteen chapters introduce the temporary expediencies to demonstrate phenomenal realities, and the final fourteen chapters display supramundane realities. All chapters deal, however, with the supreme dharma.

In the Amitabha Sutra, Buddha said, "If there is a good man or a good woman who hears someone speak of Buddha Amitabha and hold firmly his name and title for one day, or two days, or three days, or four days, or five days, or six days, or seven days, whole-heartedly and without distraction, when this person approaches the hour of death, Buddha Amitabha and his holy company will manifest in front of him.  This person, at the end, since he is not confused, will be able to proceed and be reborn in the most blissful country of Buddha Amitabha."

To quote from the 23rd chapter, "Anecdotes of Bodhisattva Bhaisajyaraja," of the Saddharmapundarika Sutra, "Anyone who hears this Sutra and practices accordingly, when this present life ends, will go to the Western Paradise,  with Buddha Amitabha and the great Bodhisattvas surrounding the dwelling place, to be reborn on the precious seat
in a lotus blossom."

The similarity of these two passages is apparent.

Other descriptions  in  the Amitabha Sutra of the grandeur  and  splendor of the Land, of Buddha's life, of Buddha's radiance  and of the protection and care by the Buddhas in six directions,[24] though different in comprehensiveness and language, are, in fact, identical in their content and significance. Therefore, one invocation of Buddha Amitabha's name represents the supreme dharma and covers unlimited approaches.

One invocation to Buddha Amitabha, if uttered properly, will immediately cause the six sense organs to become clean and clear. For instance, now while in the period of Amidist practice, the organ of sight will be clean and pure as we always look at and see the Buddha.  The organ of hearing will be clean and pure as we inhale the aroma of incense.  The tongue will be clean and pure as we recite Buddha's name incessantly. The body will be clean and pure as we face and worship Buddha all day long in a clean and pure place.  The mind will be clean and pure as we contemplate and think of Buddha.

When the six sense organs are clean and pure, the three karmas are so cleansed; the physical evils of killing, stealing, and lust will no longer exist, nor the oral evils of hypocritical, harsh, lying or suggestive speech.  There will be no involvement in the mental evils of avarice, hatred, and delusion. The Ten Good Karmas [25] will immediately be practiced. A follower of Buddha finds it most difficult to curb the evil karmas committed by the body, tongue and mind.  However, with one invocation of Buddha Amitabha's name, these three evils will be checked. Eventually, perception and contemplation will be fully developed and preparation for entering the Pure Land will grow. One will surely be reborn in the Western Paradise when this present life comes to an end.

Ordinary people usually consider it difficult to become a Buddha.  In fact, it is not so difficult. Both Buddhas and ordinary sentient beings are invariably molded Out of perception and contemplation. In one thought,  Buddhas pervade the ten Dharma Worlds.[26] Likewise, a sentient being also pervades ten Dharma Worlds in one thought.  If avarice arises at one thought, he is, indeed, a hungry ghost. If hatred arises at one thought, he is a hell-dweller. If delusion arises at one thought, he is a beast.  If doubt and arrogance arise at one thought, he is an asura, a malevolent spirit. If one's thoughts fall on the five virtues regarding human relationships, as well as the Five Precepts, he will enter the world of humans.  If his thoughts fall on the ten Good Karmas, he will be reborn in heaven.  If his ideas are centered on the Four Noble Truths,[27] he equals the Buddha's immediate disciples. If his mind dwells on the doctrine of Twelve Links of Causation,[28] he is a Pratyekabuddha. If his ideas center on the Six Paramitas,[29] he is a Bodhisattva.  If his thoughts dwell on altruism and equality, he is indeed a Buddha.

On the other hand, each person in the world has his own ideas--scholars,  farmers, workmen, businessmen, soldiers, public officials, etc.--all have come to their present condition because of previous ideas.  One becomes the embodiment of any fixed idea that is held in the mind.

This equally applies to the Amidist.  Every day he looks at the Buddha, orally repeats the Buddha's name, physically bows and worships Buddha, mentally contemplates Buddha, and also hears Buddha's name proclaimed. At all times,  his thoughts are on rebirth in the Western Paradise.  In this way, he will surely be reborn in the Western Paradise, and will surely be able to realize Buddhahood.
 


 

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