Pure Land Buddhism, developing out of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, was popularized in China and was then transmitted to Japan, Korea and other Southeast Asian countries.
The goal of Pure Land Buddhism is not liberation into Nirvana but rather rebirth into the “Western Pure Land” of Amitabha Buddha. Today, it is one of the more popular forms of Buddhism.
Amitābha is the buddha of comprehensive love who works for the enlightenment of all beings.
Western Pure Land
The Western Pure Land is not a final destination but rather a location from which rebirth into nirvana is an easy step because the toils and worries of ordinary life do not interfere with devoted practice of the teachings of the Buddha.
Pure Land Buddhism focuses on the veneration of Amitābha Buddha, the “Buddha of Infinite Light”, “The Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light” is a celestial buddha representing pure perception and a deep awareness of emptiness.
Practices Of Pure Land
Pure Land Buddhists accept the basic Buddhist teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
The primary practice common to all schools of Pure Land is the recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha. In the Chinese tradition that I learned the chant is “Na-mu A-mi-tuo Fo” (Hail, Amitabha Buddha)
The names of Amitabha in different cultures include:
- in Chinese, he Am-mi-to;
- in Japanese, he is Amida;
- in Korean, he is Amita;
- in Vietnamese, he is A-di-da.
- in Tibetan, he is Amideva.
Namo Amituofo – 1 Mala – 108 Repetitions
Following is a description of Pure Land Buddhism by Master Chin Kung. Amituofo.
We generally think in terms of only one Buddha: Sakyamuni, who lived over 2500 years ago. But, since any sentient being can awaken and innumerable numbers have, there are innumerable Buddhas.
Sakyamuni Buddha, after his enlightenment, explained that he saw not only his past lifetimes but also how the future would unfold.
Sakyamuni saw people in our time having more afflictions,worries, and wandering thoughts. Our deep-seated badhabits having become even more entrenched over thousands of lifetimes would make liberating ourselves solely by our own efforts almost impossible. He knew that to end one’s problems and attain lasting happiness many people would need the help of another Buddha: Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life. Almost all of the teachings by Sakyamuni were the result of his being asked a question. In a departure from the norm, and when the time was right, Sakyamuni initiated the teaching that introduced Amitabha and his pure land. This spontaneous teaching by Sakyamuni is what makes this teaching so special.
In this teaching, Sakyamuni recounted how the bodhisattva Dharmakara, after witnessing the suffering of sentient beings, spent five eons studying all the Buddha lands. Dharmakara then made forty-eight vows, the fulfillment of which would create the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. He declared that he would not attain Buddhahood unless his vows for a perfect pure land, where all beings would advance along the Buddhist path and never again fall back into suffering, were accomplished. Once these vows were accomplished, Dharmakara Bodhisattva became Amitabha Buddha. He is now speaking the Dharma in his pure land and helping all who are truly sincere in their vows to be reborn there.
With help from Amitabha, we do not have to rely solely on ourselves to attain enlightenment as we would with other methods. In Pure Land Buddhism, we rely on the compassionate Buddhas and bodhisattvas to help us.Thus, reliance on self and on another are combined as we request by way of our mindful chanting that Amitabha Buddha, through the strength of his vows, help us to be reborn in the Pure Land as we breathe our last breath in our present body.
Amitabha also vowed that once we attain this rebirth, we will always progress in our practice and learning. We will be able to continue our practice in the Pure Land, or, when we choose, return to this and other worlds to help others, without being affected by unfavorable environments or our former bad habits. If we wish, we will be able to do this even before we attain supreme enlightenment.
Due to Amitabha Buddha’s merits and virtues, and the goodness of all the beings there, the Pure Land has innumerable wonders and advantages, all of which arise from the great vows, deeds, and purity of all the beings there. Through his vows, Amitabha helps all beings create the causes to plant the roots of goodness. With his deeds, he creates the conditions for beings to accumulate merits.With his purity, he has created a perfect land—one that is free from pollution, anger, and intolerance. It is a land of peace and serenity. It is a world of equality, joy, and beauty.In comparison, our world is one of delusion and suffering, filled with worry and anxiety.
For countless people, Pure Land practice is the most suitable for several reasons.
First, it is relatively easy to practice in almost any environment: alone, with other practitioners, or even amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Second, there are no difficult entry-level criteria.
Even if one’s abilities and knowledge are modest, with belief,vows, and practice, we will be reborn in the Pure Land.
Belief means that we need to believe in the Buddhas and their teachings, and in causality. We need to believe in ourselves and that we have the same true nature as a Buddha. We need to believe that by living a moral life and being mindful of Amitabha Buddha we will be born into the Western Pure Land and become a Buddha in one lifetime.
by James T. McCay
with Richard E. Ward
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