Pure Land School
Moreover, Shariputra, in that Buddhaland there is always divine music and the ground is yellow gold. In the six periods of the day and night a heavenly rain of mandarava (white lotus) flowers fall, and throughout the clear morning, each living being of that land, offers sacks full of the myriad of wonderful flowers, to the hundreds of billions of Buddhas in the other directions…
Shariputra, in that Buddhaland when the soft wind blows, the rows of jeweled trees and jeweled nets give forth subtle and wonderful sounds, like one hundred thousand kinds of music played in symphony. The hearts of all those who hear are naturally inspired with mindfulness of the Buddha, mindfulness of the Dharma, and mindfulness of the Sangha…
A Buddha’s “Pure Land” is a world-system imbued with many special characteristics: the three evil destinies of the hells, ghosts and animals are absent; the earth is gentle and even; the landscape beautiful and distinctively lovely. Life there resembles our vision of living in blissful heaven. Yet, unlike the heavens, the luxury and grandeur of a Pure Land is designed to inspire in the inhabitants mindfulness of the Triple Jewel. Dwellers there always get to hear the Buddha and his retinue of Bodhisattvas teaching the Dharma. All beings born in the Pure Lands eventually become Buddhas themselves in other world-systems, or they purposely remain high Bodhisattvas to help living beings. Once born in a Pure Lane one never again falls into the three lower realms of existence or retreats from the Buddha’s path.
Amitabha Buddha established a Pure Land called the “Land of Ultimate Happiness”, situated billions of worlds-systems from us in the west. Amitabha means “Measureless Light” and Amitayus, another one of his manes, means “Measureless Life”. Beings in our world have close affinities with Amitabha Buddha, therefore our Buddha, Shakyamuni, spoke the Amitabha Sutra on our behalf. The Amitabha Sutra will be the last Sutra to remain in our world as the Dharma declines. After the Amitabha Sutra disappears, the only Buddhadharma remaining in the world will be the words “Namo (Homage to) Amitabha Buddha”. These words will survive for one hundred years bringing liberation to limitless beings who sincerely recite them. After that, only the words “Amitabha Buddha” will endure as an efficacious method for seeking liberation. After another hundred years Amitabha Buddha’s name will disappear leaving no more Buddha-dharma in our world, until the next Buddha, Maitreya, appears in about ten million years.
This explains why the method of reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha is considered to be so important in Buddhism. There are three prerequisites for being reborn in the Land of Ultimate Happiness.
1. Faith. There must be a basic faith in oneself: that by turning away from the bad and going towards the good we can transform ourselves to a degree that merits this superior rebirth. We also, must believe the Pure Land does indeed exist.
In Buddhism, faith is extremely important. It says in the Flower Adornment Sutra,
Faith is the source of the Path,
the mother of merit and virtue.
It nurtures all good dharmas.
2. Vows. We must make vows to be reborn in the Pure Land, and also, make great vows to benefit all sentient beings.
3. Practice. We need to really cultivate the Buddha’s teachings, and diligently recite the Buddha’s name.
The Buddha said that one who wishes to be reborn in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land must cultivate the following virtues:
First, one must be filial to and serve one’s parents, respect teachers and elders, have a kind heart and not kill any being, and practice the ten kinds of good karma.
Second, one must receive the three refuges (taking refuge in the Triple Jewel), and perfect the various moral regulations.
Third, one must resolve to become Enlightened, have deep faith in cause and effect, recite the Great Vehicle Sutras, and diligently practice according to them.
In the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, the Great Chan Master Hui Neng said,
Common, deluded people do not understand their inherent nature and do not know that the Pure Land is within themselves. Therefore they make vows for the East and West. To enlightened people, all places are the same. As the Buddha said, “In whatever place one dwells, there is constant peace and happiness.”
If the mind-ground is only without unwholesomeness, the West is not far from here. If one harbors unwholesome thoughts, one may recite the Buddha’s name, but it will be difficult to be reborn there.
--Instructions on Reciting the Buddha’s Name
---by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The reason this simple method is so efficacious is that in former lives, when Amitabha Buddha was cultivating, he practiced many Dharmas and suffered innumerable bitter experiences – all of which he found difficult to use and perfect. Accordingly, he made forty eight great vows, one of which states that any person who recites his name will be assured rebirth in his world system in the West, the Pure Land of Ultimate Happiness, and there become enlightened. Our recitation is like sending a telegram to Amitabha Buddha in the West. At the end or our lives, the Bodhisattvas will guide us to be reborn in his Western Pure Land.
From morning to night, moving or quiet, at all times, you can recite. While moving, you can recite and change motion into stillness; when still, you can recite and turn stillness into motion. When there is neither motion nor stillness, your telegram to Amitabha Buddha has gotten through and you have received his response.
If you maintain your recitation with undivided attention morning and night without stopping, you may recite to the point that you don’t know that you are walking when you walk, you don’t feel thirst when you are thirsty, and you don’t experience hunger when you are hungry, you don’t know you are cold in freezing weather, and you don’t notice the heat in hot weather. People and things are empty, and you and Amitabha Buddha become one. ‘Amitabha Buddha is me and I am Amitabha Buddha.’ The two cannot be separated. Recite single-mindedly and sincerely without false thinking. Pay no attention to worldly concerns. When you don’t know the time and don’t know the day, you may arrive at a miraculous state.
You may ask, “But isn’t that just being dumb?”
In fact, rather than having become dumb, you will have experienced ‘great wisdom which seems like stupidity’.
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The Bodhisattva Great Strength explains the practice of reciting the Buddha’s name in the Shurangama Sutra, (Volume 5):
If two people remember each other until the memory of each is deep, then in life after life they will be together like a form and its shadow, and they will never be at odds.
Out of pity for living beings, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions are mindful of them as a mother remembers her child. If the child runs away, what use is the mother’s regard for him? But if the child remembers his mother in the same way that she remembers him, then in life after life the mother and child will not be far apart.
If living beings are always mindful of the Buddha, certainly they will see the Buddha now or in the future. They will never be far from the Buddha, and their minds will awaken by themselves, without the aid of expedient methods.
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