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 What Kind of Buddha Is Amitabha?

Author: Dharma Master Huijing

Translator: Householder Jingpu

Publication Date: 2006-10-01

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Brief Introduction

In the Infinite Life Sutra, Amitabha Buddha said, “I undertook transcendent vows.” That means the vows he originally undertook surpassed those of the other Buddhas, containing substance that theirs did not have. When he introduced Amitabha, Shakyamuni Buddha also said, “his vows exceeded all Buddhas’.” In other words, Amitabha’s 48 Vows transcended those of the Buddhas in the ten directions.

How long did it take for Amitabha Buddha to make those vows, according to the Infinite Life Sutra? Says the scripture, “For fully five kalpas, he reflected deeply and decided on the practices to establish his Buddha realm.” Amitabha Buddha carefully considered and planned how he could simply and easily deliver all sentient beings, and enable them to gain Buddhahood expeditiously after they had arrived in the Land of Bliss. To achieve those goals, Amitabha engaged in five full kalpas of unceasing, meticulous reflection.

The vows would be empty if he did not continue to accumulate merit by practicing the Six Paramitas and myriad virtuous deeds, and learning the innumerable Dharma teachings. How long did Amitabha Buddha take to amass such merit and virtues? “Over inconceivable, countless eons, he cultivated and accumulated the incalculable virtuous practices of the Bodhisattvas,” notes the sutra. So it required unfathomable, countless eons of continual accrual of merit and virtues.

In the original Chinese, “countless eons” is zhaozai yongjie. “Zhao” and “zai” are very large numbers.

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Guiding Principles

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