Master Shandao : A Brief Biography
After the Charter, it is necessary to be familiar with the school’s founder, for the former is based on the teachings of the latter. The founder occupies a preeminent position in the school, unmatched by others.
The founder of the Pure Land school was Master Shandao of the Tang Dynasty, widely accepted as an incarnation of Amitabha Buddha. He synthesized and completed the Pure Land teachings and wrote the Five Works in Nine Fascicles, which definitively laid down the thought and practices of the Pure Land tradition.
The wisdom of the Buddhas is profound; it is unfathomable to ignorant ordinary beings. The meanings of the sutras are multi-layered and therefore subjected to many different interpretations. Literal explanations would do injustice to all the Buddhas. As they composed their explications, the ancient worthies adopted the perspectives of their own schools. And learners all took as benchmarks the interpretations of the sutras by their respective schools’ patriarchs and lineage masters.
Pure Land practitioners should follow only the explications of Master Shandao and the school’s other lineage masters. If the interpretations of other knowledgeable figures should differ from those of our lineage masters, we should recognize that the others were using their own expedient means to attract and instruct learners. We should neither comment on nor seek convergence with these other teachings, but merely set them aside. It is sufficient to draw from the Shandao tradition alone.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings