How Does Amitabha Buddha Relate to Us?
The Infinite Life Sutra says:
Uninvited, he becomes a friend to multitudes of beings and shoulders their heavy karmic burdens.
Like a dutiful son who loves and respects his parents, he sees sentient beings as his own self.
Amitabha Buddha is our uninvited friend. Without receiving our invitation, plea or request, he voluntarily and happily becomes our friend and even family. As the scripture says, he is "like a loving mother looking after her child."
A mother's love and care for her baby is proactive, joyful. Whatever she provides the baby, she does so on her own initiative, without complaint or regret. She even considers her toil a great pleasure. She needs to receive no plea to attend to her baby. Amitabha Buddha treats us in the same way. He cares for and protects all beings and voluntarily becomes their close kin and good friend, without regard to their countries, nationalities or religious beliefs, irrespective of whether they are kind or evil, whether they are humans, beings of the Three Wretched Realms, or celestial deities.
Why does Amitabha Buddha become close kin and good friend to beings? Because he "shoulders their heavy karmic burdens." By himself he carries their immeasurable transgressions, and pays all their karmic debts accumulated over countless kalpas. He "becomes an uninvited friend to multitudes of beings" in order to "shoulder their heavy karmic burdens."
So we reciters of the Pure Land school should first understand that though we are reverently invoking Amitabha Buddha in the present life, he has in fact been mindful of us for ten kalpas. Moreover, he comes before us to assume our heavy burdens. They boil down to one: our immeasurable karmic offenses, which we cannot repay, ensnaring us in the cycle of rebirth. Amitabha Buddha comes to take them from us. That is the Buddha's mind.
"Like a dutiful son who loves and respects his parents." Here, Amitabha's compassion for sentient beings is compared to the love of a dutiful son love for his parents. A filial child would not forget his parents, let alone abandon them. He respects and looks after them. Similarly, Amitabha never discards or disregards sentient beings, but always accompanies them, giving them love and respect with the same depth of heart as a filial child has for his parents. Without being told, the child understands his parents' needs and takes good care of them.
"He sees sentient beings as his own self." The above isn't enough to describe the profound love of Amitabha Buddha. So the sutra further says that he regards sentient beings as his own self. He deems all humans, animals and other beings in the Six Realms as his own body, hands, feet or other part. This way, beings in the ten directions are of a single entity with him. There is no binary relationship between him and them. By delivering sentient beings, Amitabha delivers himself. And it is a matter of course to save oneself, bring oneself joy and free oneself from suffering. He does so naturally, on his own initiative, and without preconditions.
From On Love
A Discourse by Dharma Master Huijing
Pure Land Buddhism Amitabha-Recitation Society, December 23 and 27, 2015
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