The Life and Death Issue Could be Resolved if One Has the Yuan to Meet Amitabha Buddha
By Venerable Zhisui
You may have heard some seemingly unbelievable stories. For example, at a road section where there had been frequent car accidents, once a stone tablet carved with “Namo Amitabha Buddha” was set up, the spirits who died from car accidents near that stretch of road would be liberated, and the section would not have any more car accidents. This is because where there is Buddha’s name, there is Buddha-light that delivers sentient beings indiscernibly.
When we try to free sentient beings from samsara, it looks like we are inspiring and helping them. However, it is essentially Amitabha Buddha who delivers sentient beings. It is very difficult for us to enlighten anyone by our own efforts.
If there were no Buddha power, it would be impossible to convince someone. Even with the Buddha’s power and his infinite light, it may still be difficult to deliver sentient beings, because it depends on the individuals’ yin-yuan. When people’s yuan have ripened, you don’t have to say too much to bring them into the world of Buddhism.
Regarding the issue of rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, some people can easily be persuaded: “Why don’t you recite Namo Amitabha Buddha?” “Okay, I'll do it right away. Namo Amitabha Buddha!”
According to a historical document, during the Tang Dynasty in the city of Changan, there was a butcher who heard that Master Shandao was teaching people to be vegetarian and to Nianfo. The entire population of the town turned vegetarian and recited the Buddha’s name. No one would buy his pork; he felt deeply resentful. Hence, he went to see Master Shandao. As soon as he saw the Master, his heart softened, his hands lowered, and he put his knife down.
He came in with anger and resentment, but when he met Master Shandao, his irritation and disgruntlement disappeared immediately. He started to be afraid. He knew he had to ask for the Dharma.
“Master, I am a butcher. Could a butcher be reborn into the Pure Land?” Master Shandao told him: “Yes, you can, if you recite the Buddha-name!” He then followed the Master’s instruction and succeeded in rebirth to the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
So, if the yinyuan develops, you will be reborn in the Buddha’s Land by reciting his name even just one time; if the yinyuan hasn’t matured, it will be a long time of rebirths among the six realms.
We sentient beings have been transmigrating, life after life, over endless kalpas, until we can’t recognize ourselves anymore. People whom we are familiar with, we meet on the street, we have seen in past lives, all have yinyuan with us. But after rebirth, we forget everything. Our old acquaintances now become strangers; our best friends now may become our enemies. This is the phenomena of impermanence. Transitions among the six realms make us unable to see our true selves.
Master Shandao told us, we must believe that we are iniquitous mortals subject to the endless cycle of birth and death without the hope of being liberated from the rebirth cycle.
This is all due to yinyuan. If the yinyuan has not developed, it is not easy to have faith in this Dharma. If the yinyuan has fully developed, one will be suddenly awakened one day, can recite the Buddha’s name, and will seek rebirth to the Pure Land. Then it will be easy to be free from samsara.
Hence, the most important factor in the Pure Land Path is yuan. Once you have the yuan to meet Amitabha Buddha, your afflictions of life and death can be eradicated; otherwise, you keep being entrapped in the six-realm samsara.
As people who have faith in the Pure Land, we have to “Uphold the faith and teach others to have faith. That is the way to genuinely requite the Buddha’s kindness.” Once we have faith in Amitabha Buddha, we will teach others, and provide this yuan to them. When the yinyuan matures, one can achieve rebirth to the Pure Land naturally.
The Pure Land Path depends on the most powerful augmentative yuan of Amitabha Buddha to lead multitudes of sentient beings to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Each of us is a leaf of the origin of yuan, like a branch and a leaf spread from a big tree. While Amitabha Buddha resides in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, his infinite light can deliver an infinite amount of sentient beings. These branches and leaves can spread out to generate new branches, and then generate new leaves, to gather and escort sentient beings.
That is the Pure Land Dharma, and Amitabha Buddha is the core. All sentient beings will devote themselves to Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha alone can deliver an infinite amount of sentient beings. The one Pure Land path encompasses all other Dharma paths. When we recite Amitabha Buddha’s name, all the dogmas and all the merits and virtues are encompassed in his name. We don’t need to practice Dharmas of other sects.
Some people may ask, does it undermine the doctrines of other Buddhist schools? No, it is just the opposite. Pure Land Buddhism is all-inclusive; the Buddha’s name comprises all the Dharma, so we don’t have to complicate things. Reciting the Buddha’s name for a lifetime is enough.
Once we arrive at the Land of Ultimate Bliss, naturally, we recite the Buddha, recite the Dharma, recite the Sangha. This is because the pond of seven Jewels and the water of eight merits and virtues in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are discoursing the Dharma subtly and delightfully and naturally in harmony. Upon hearing these sounds, endless wisdom fills our minds. All the benefits, merits, and virtues from other Dharma paths appear in our minds as well.
The Dharma Path of Pure Land Buddhism is boundless and limitless; it encompasses all the merits and virtues of the ten directions. All Buddhas glorify the incredible and inconceivable merits and virtues of Amitabha Buddha. We should be satisfied with getting this invaluable treasure and focus on reciting Amitabha’s name.
(Translated by Chih-Yi Gabriela Lin;
edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
 Yinyuan in Chinese pinyin: It is a key doctrine of Buddhism which states that all dharmas (phenomena) arise in dependence upon other dharmas. The direct causal condition is “yin,” and the secondary and dependent conditions are “yuan”. Yin-yuan is the conditioning causes that gather all factors and produce the phenomena of the dharma world. Phenomena are sustained only so long as their sustaining elements remain
- 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
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.
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