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 Amitabha Buddha's Appearance and Guidance

 

This article was modified by Venerable Jinghe based on personal experiences recounted byVenerable Fahui.

 

       Venerable Fahui is a seventy-year-old Bhikkhuni, who has been a resident nun of the Temple of Pure Land Buddhism (PLB) in Taipei for ten years.

       When she was eight years old, her mother often brought her to a nearby Buddhist temple to join the group Amitabha Buddha chanting. She didn’t know the benefits or merits of recitation at that time. She used the chanting as a way to sing and built up a connection with the Buddha. She continued to recite throughout her life until she became a nun.

       It was 1993 when she was forty-two-year-old, Venerable Fahui renunciated the mundane world and joined the monastery at a temple in Central Taiwan. She has since devoted herself to the monastery and the wellbeing of the public. She even spent three years attending a very strict and famous nunnery in Southern Taiwan to practice the rigorous precepts. In hopes of eradicating the cycle of birth and death, she relied on her own efforts practicing the precepts and nianfo.[1] But she soon realized that the more she practiced precepts diligently and had a better understanding of the precepts, the more often she violated them; even though she repented after the evening recitation. There was no assurance that she could be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

       In 2009, sixteen years after her renunciation, a thought always arose in Venerable Fahui’s mind: “I am already sixty years old, the Impermanence[2] will arrive soon. I had better look for a monastery that specializes in nianfo so l can concentrate on chanting Amitabha Buddha and be reborn in the Pure Land without any obstructions.”

       One morning in the summer of 2009, as Venerable Fahui joined the group in the main hall to chant the Shurangama (Lengyan) mantra, the same thought occurred again in her mind. Suddenly, an image appeared in front of her. It was the Three Sages of the West, typically enshrined at the Altar of a Buddhist temple. In addition, there was a huge image in front of the three sages. That was a statue of Amitabha Buddha which she had never seen before. The countenance of the Buddha was exceedingly compassionate and benevolent. He wore an orange robe with eyes looking downward and body leaning forward. His left hand carried a lotus flower, and his right arm extended in a receiving gesture. The statue manifests the Buddha’s compassion and empathy for afflicted sentient beings, readying to deliver them out of misery and sorrow. Venerable Fahui wondered, “l have never seen an Amitabha Buddha statue so splendid and so compassionate. Where can l find him?” Then she heard a voice: “Go North! Go North!” as if Amitabha Buddha was hinting at her that he was stationed in a temple in northern Taiwan that was devoted to reciting Amitabha’s name.

       After the appearance of the Buddha’s image, Venerable Fahui asked around and described what she saw to others. No one seemed to know such an Amitabha statue, not to mention such a place. One year had passed, and Venerable Fahui still carried the thought of finding this place.

        September 19 of 2010 was a day when monastics were to receive a thorough medical examination at the Temple of Zhiguan in City Xinzhu, organized by the Foundation for the Wellbeing of Sangha. After her check-up, Venerable Fahui was given an offering bag with books, things for every-day use, and some food. Because her temple was busy performing the services, Venerable Fahui just put the offering bag away. It was not until December that she finally had the time to take a look at her offering bag. She found to her surprise that the cover of one of the books featured the exact image of Amitabha Buddha that had previously appeared to her! The name of the book was “A Collection of Nianfo Eyewitness Account,” compiled by Master Huijing. When Venerable Fahui looked up the address of the publisher, it indicated, “Chinese Pure Land Buddhist Association” in Taipei. Just like the voice told her—North.

       Venerable Fahui followed the information, contacted the headquarter of Pure Land Buddhism, and found out that the PLB temple is dedicated to the recitation of Namo Amitabha Buddha exclusively and welcomed all monastics to join them in practicing nianfo.

       After receiving this news, she indistinctly perceived that she had found the Dharma-site that would fulfill her long-cherished wish. Apparently, this was the profound and skillful guidance of Amitabha Buddha. So full of joy, she decided to go as soon as possible.

       By mid-December of 2010, Venerable Fahui arrived at the Temple of PLB in Taipei, a few days before Amitabha Buddha’s birthday. When she arrived at the temple, Venerable Fahui saw an image of Amitabha Buddha outside of the building reaching four stories tall, the same one that appeared in front of her at the shrine on that fateful morning. From that day onwards, Venerable Fahui stayed in the temple and chanted “Namo Amituofo” solely every day.  She discovered that nianfo was simple, full of energy, and easy to focus on.

       Venerable Fahui recalled, “All my past fears and uncertainty about rebirth in the Pure Land dissipated when I live with the sound of nianfo all day long. My heart is now filled with Dharma joy.” As Master Shandao said, “Sentient beings, who recite Amitabha’s name definitely will be reborn in his Pure Land,” Venerable Fahui has thus accomplished the rebirth in this lifetime and definitely will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

       There is a common saying that goes, “If a person is sincere, then the Buddha will respond.” Under Amitabha Buddha’s guidance, Venerable Fahui was able to fulfill her long-time dream to practice nianfo, and her wish to be reborn in his Pure Land.

       Venerable Fahui's journey in search of the true nianfo tells us that the more one practices diligently, upholds the precepts seriously, and meditates single-mindedly to acquire wisdom, the more one understands that they cannot end greed, anger, ignorance, and free oneself from the suffering of the cycle of rebirth on their own. The only way to liberation and to be reborn in the Pure Land is to rely upon Amitabha Buddha’s fundamental vows and the merits of his name. Only by reciting Namo Amituofo exclusively can we rely on the power of the Buddha’s great vows to be reborn in his Land of Ultimate Bliss, and become Buddhas at a speedy pace, forever leaving behind the suffering of the six-realm samsara.

(Translated by Householder Fochen; edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)

 

 

[1] Nianfo in Chinese pinyin: nian means to recite mentally and/or vocally, for the Buddha. Nianfo means Buddha-recitation and Buddha-remembrance.

[2] The Impermanence in Buddhist terminology means Death.

Characteristics

  • Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
  • Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
  • Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
  • Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime

Amitabha Buddhas

The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha

If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.

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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