Understanding Pure Land Sect (Part 2)
Focus on one Pure Land
Referring to the Three Sutras and One Shastra in Pure Land sect, it is noted that they introduce the life history and the character of Amitabha Buddha, the development of Sukhavati under the 48 vows of Amitabha Buddha, the description and features of Sukhavati and the people in it, and the ways to be reborn in Sukhavati, etc., in order to persuade, convince and urge us to be reborn in Sukhavati after death.
In many Sutras expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha, he introduced many other Buddhalands in all directions, however, it is obvious that he mentioned Amitabha Buddha and his Buddhaland, Sukhavati most in full details. Once a Bodhisattva asked the Buddha why it was. The Buddha replied, ” In Saha world (i.e. our world), people are defiled with greed, weak in faith, confused in mind. It will be easier for the people to achieve to be reborn in Pure Land, if they can focus on one Pure Land. Thus, I tend to praise one Pure Land.”
In praise of Pure Land
According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Tathagata spoke the supreme Dharma to forty-one great Bodhisattvas soon after his great awakening under the Bodhi tree. In the closing remarks, a virtuous youth called Sudana visits fifty-three great Bodhisattvas and sages seeking for the way to Buddhahood. One of his hosts is Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, who teaches Sundana the ten Great Vows, so that, not only Sundana, but all those present at the time may obtain rebirth in Pure Land. This narrative is important as it affirms the practice of Pure Land sect that it is not just expedient means, but an ultimate goal surpassing all practices in other Buddhist sects.
According to Mahasamgata Sutra, it reveals that in the Dharma-ending age, there will be countless practitioners of lower capacity or potential, so very few will succeed in attaining liberation. However, Pure Land sect provides the most simple, reliable and effective way in the attainment of liberation.
Also according to Maharatnakuta Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha urged his father, the King Suddhodana and sixty thousand members of his Sakya clan to seek rebirth in Pure Land.
Is Sukhavati the best?
According to the Contemplation Sutra, Vaidehi, the wife of King Bimbisara, was about to be killed by her son Ajatasatru. Though Ajatasatru repented after listening to the advice of his ministers, Vaidehi was so disappointed that she paid homage to the Buddha, asking the Buddha why she had a wicked son. She also expressed that she would like to be reborn to a world without sorrow and trouble.
Then the Buddha flashed forth a golden ray from between his eyebrows. It extended to all the innumerable worlds of the ten quarters. On its return, the ray rested on the top of the Budha’s head and transformed itself into a golden pillar just like Mount Sumeru, wherein the pure and admirable countries of the Buddhas in the ten quarters appeared simultaneously illuminated.
Thereupon Vaidehi again spoke to the Buddha,” World Honored One, although all other Buddha countries are pure and radiant with light. I should, nevertheless, wish myself to be born in the realm of Amitabha Buddha, in the world of Ultimate Happiness, Sukhavati.”
For the rest of the Sutra, the Buddha taught her how to see and to be born in Sukhavati by contemplation.
The development of Sukhavati
According to the Larger Amitabha Sutra, in the era of Lokesvararaja Tathagata , there was a king, who left his royal family and became a Bhiksu named Dharmasaka. He asked the Tathagata to speak of the pure lands of all Buddhas, and their conducts in adornment and excellence. Thus, the Tathagata described 21 billion pure lands, and let Dharmasaka to see them all. Taking the perfections and all excellences and good qualities of all Buddhalands, Dharmasaka took five Kalpas to design and formulate the specifications in the creation of his pure world.
After he finished the plan, he came before the Tathagata and made 48 great vows, saying that he would not be a Buddha if each of his vows was not realized. Now, Dharmasaka has become Buddha for ten Kalpas, called Amitabha Buddha. His Pure Land is called Sukhavati, which is located far away in the west of our world.
It is the brief history of the origin of Amitabha Buddha and his Pure Land Sukhavati.
Description of Sukhavati
As described metaphorically in Smaller Amitabha Sutra, Sukhavati is adorned with all jewels and precious things, towers of agate, and palaces of jades. There are huge trees made of various gems, covered with fruits and flowers. The fragrance of gigantic lotus flowers spread everywhere. There are pools, also made of seven jewels, and filled with purest water. The ground is all covered with gold. Flowers fall from the sky all day and night, and the entire sky is embraced with a net of gold, silver and pearls. Sukhavati is perfumed with wonderful scents. Celestial music is all around. The weather is optimum, no extreme coldness and hotness.
Beings in Sukhavati
In Sukhavati, there is no old age, sickness or death. There is no three evil paths – hell, ghost and animal. Those born in Sukhavati come forth there from the lotus flowers, not from womb in pain and blood. Once born, they have immortal and transformed bodies, and do not fall back to lower realms through incarnations. When the lotus flower blossoms, they can see Amitabha Buddha, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta, who can guide us to ultimate enlightenment.
They are beings of high virtues, so they have fine food ready to eat and beautiful clothing ready to dress. There are no such things as greed, ignorance, anger, laziness or strife.
Above all, not only the sages, and even the birds and the trees as the manifestations of Amitabha Buddha expound the Buddhist Dharma continuously in Sukhavati. In the presence of Amitabha Buddha. those beings in Pure Land can achieve and maintain right states of concentration easily, and attain complete enlightenment eventually.