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 Guiding Principle of Pure Land Buddhism– General

The guiding principles of Pure Land Buddhism are: attaining rebirth in the Land of Bliss as the goal, and exclusively reciting “Namo Amituofo” as the method; enjoying stability and peace, blessings and joy in the present life, and attaining rebirth in the Pure Land in the next life.

  • Belief in and acceptance of Amitabha’s deliverance
  • Exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s Name
  • Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
  • Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings
These above four are the guiding principles of the Pure Land school.
The Pure Land School is the teaching of Amitabha’s deliverance. Amitabha Buddha proactively made his vows for us, builds the Land of Bliss for us, and calls us to accept his deliverance and reception to the Land of Bliss. Therefore, the Sutra says, “If I am not capable of helping others at all times, relieving the poor from various sufferings, giving peace and joy to the worldly beings, I will not become the Dharma King of Deliverance”.

The guiding principles of Pure Land Buddhism are as follows:
The first sentence: Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance – it is the origin of Pure Land Buddhism, which reveals the meaning of the teaching of Amitabha’s deliverance.
The second sentence: Exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s name – it indicates Amitabha’s method of deliverance. As long as sentient beings exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, they will be delivered by Amitabha Buddha. That means they receive and accept Amitabha’s merits and virtues.
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land – it is the goal of deliverance. It is the only goal throughout Amitabha-recitation.
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings – to reveal that Pure Land Buddhism is the unsurpassed Mahayana teaching, and to gain Buddhahood through Amitabha-recitation, to benefit oneself through benefitting others, and to comprehensively deliver sentient beings.

The objectives and the purpose of learning [Pure Land] teachings are to believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance. It is basic and fundamental because, if there is no deliverance of Amitabha Buddha, there will be no Land of Bliss, and no Pure Land Buddhism. How is Amitabha’s deliverance realized? It is through the practice of ‘exclusive Amitabha-recitation.’
What is the purpose of practicing ‘exclusive Amitabha-recitation’? It is because of our aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land.
What are the great effects and the great benefits of ‘aspiration to rebirth’? So that we can liberate, not just, ourselves from reincarnation within the Six Realms; but, also liberate other people from reincarnation within the Six Realms. That is known as the ‘comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings.’

Amitabha’s Pure Land is a land of ultimate bliss, peace, and joy. However, if Amitabha Buddha is unable to facilitate our rebirth there, peace and joy are meaningless to us, like empty talk, or drawing a cake for a hungry person. The requirements stated in the 18th vow are as follows: If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions, who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and slander the correct teaching.
Referring to these words: sincerity, joyful trust, aspiration to rebirth, and Amitabha-recitation, are taken as the essential conditions for rebirth in the Land of Bliss.
Some scholars explain these four requirements in an elaborate way, so as to make them complicated and difficult to understand. Actually, it is very simple and easy to understand. It means, as long as we sincerely believe, joyfully entrust in Amitabha’s deliverance, truly aspire to be reborn in his Pure Land, and truly recite Amitabha’s name. It is so simple, easy to understand, easy to interpret, and easy to practice!
Referring to the 18th vow, the prerequisite is ‘faith’. The Land of Bliss is so beautiful that no one would not want to be reborn there, unless they do not believe it exists. If our faith is sincere, we naturally have joy. If we sincerely aspire to be reborn, we must single-mindedly and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name hereafter. In other words, with respect to faith, aspiration and practice, it finally comes down to ‘practice.’ Therefore, Master Shandao said, “Single-mindedly and exclusively practice Amitabha-recitation,” and also said, “Sentient beings who recite Amitabha’s name must attain rebirth.”
To make it simple, ‘sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves’ means truly believe, and be joyful; ‘desire to be born’ means aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land.
Once we are reborn there, we will achieve and reach the state of nirvana. The Pure Land is so magnificent that everybody joyfully aspires to be reborn there. ‘Even ten times’ refers to the practice of Amitabha-recitation only, and no any other miscellaneous practice is necessary. It is simple and easy. Thus, Pure Land Buddhism, the teaching of rebirth through exclusive Amitabha-recitation, is regarded as an Easy Path.

Prior to aspiring to be reborn in the Pure Land, one should know Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. Amitabha has accomplished the Land of Bliss for all of us in advance, and has provided all of the merits and virtues necessary for our rebirth in advance, and has also paid in advance all of our debts accumulated in past lives through numerous eons.

Our guiding principle in Pure Land Buddhism is very clear, rebirth through Amitabha-recitation. That is to say, we have the goal and have the method. The goal is rebirth in the Land of Bliss, and the method is exclusive recitation of ‘Namo Amituofo’!

Attaining rebirth in the Land of Bliss is not just our guiding principle in the Pure Land School; but, also the objective of our life. At the same time, it is the reason why Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in this world. It is the key point he wishes to teach us to lead us to the Land of Bliss.

The following are the Dharma words of Master Shandao: “Shakyamuni Buddha taught us Amitabha Buddha’s Fundamental Vow. His underlying intention is that all beings should always, exclusively recite Amitabha’s name.”
This paragraph can be taken as the guiding principle of our Pure Land School, and is the essence and the conclusive statement of all of Buddhism.

Faith and acceptance by heart means ‘faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance’, thus ‘aspiration to Amitabha’s Pure Land’, and subsequently the exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation’. It is called faith and acceptance by heart, also called ‘holding fast to the name.’
Keep it in mind - believing and accepting this principle without any doubt and any change. Holding fast means thorough ‘faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance’, ‘aspiration to Amitabha’s Pure Land’, and ‘exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation.’ If we have faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance in mind, we will naturally recite the Name - Namo Amitabha by mouth.

Though we are ordinary beings:
If we have faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, it is of great blessing and of great wisdom;
If we exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, it is of great virtuous root and of great merits and virtues;
If we believe and teach others to believe [this teaching], it is of great compassion and of great vow power.

If we follow and rely on Amitabha’s deliverance, there is only one level out of immeasurable levels [of rebirth] and there is only one kind of aptitude out of immeasurable kinds of aptitude [of ordinary beings]. It refers to all those who have no causal condition to leave [the cycle of birth-and- death].
Why didn’t Shakyamuni Buddha speak of this [Pure Land] teaching right in the very beginning? It is because he introduces the appropriate teaching that suits an individual’s aptitude and capacity, so as to lead all kinds of people [to this teaching]. If he speaks of this teaching first, people may have difficulty to believe and accept it.
So, in order to accommodate people of different aptitude and capacity, the Buddha speaks of this teaching when the conditions are in maturity.
Just like the Contemplation Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha did not speak of the teaching [of Amitabha-recitation] in the beginning. He talked about the thirteen kinds of meditative contemplations first, then the Three Meritorious Deeds at the nine levels next, and the teaching [of Amitabha-recitation] at the end. The sutra that talks about the teaching [of Amitabha-recitation] only is the Amitabha Sutra.
So, the Amitabha Sutra is a conclusive sutra. This sutra does not talk about the Three Meritorious Deeds at the nine levels, the thirteen kinds of meditative contemplations, and a myriad of practices of the Three Studies and the Six Paramitas. It only talks about holding fast to [Amitabha’s] name. It simply talks about the Three States of Mind and Amitabha-recitation mentioned in the 18th vow.

Between the two kinds of splendid paths that expedite the liberation from the cycle of birth-and- death, [it is recommended that one should] put aside the Sacred Path, and choose the Pure Land Path. Between the two kinds of practices – the main practices and the mixed practices, and in order to enter the Pure Land Path, [it is recommended that one should] throw away the mixed practices, and choose the main practices.
Between the two kinds of main practices – the principal karma and the supportive karma, and in order to cultivate the main practices, [it is recommended that one should] take the supportive karma as the secondary practices, and choose the principal karma as primary practice for assured rebirth.
Amitabha-recitation is the principal karma of assured rebirth, as it accords with Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow: rebirth is assured through exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation.
With the four 5-word verses, Master Honen thoroughly and perfectly revealed the [essence of] Pure Land teachings of Master Shandao. It is later called ‘the Verse of Three Selections’. This verse highlights the four words – putting aside, throwing away, taking as secondary and practicing exclusively. It is considered to be a pithy formula of Pure Land school of Buddhism. It is my own interpretation. Perhaps, practitioners of other schools or the Pure Land practitioners of different lineages may not agree.
However, I think, because of exclusivity, we have to put aside the Sagely Path, throw away the mixed practices, take the supportive karma as secondary practices and concentrate on exclusive practice of principal karma of assured rebirth. If we can manage these four words, we can manage the essence of the entire Pure Land teaching. So, I always keep these four words as a pithy formula of Pure Land School.

A person who has faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, and exclusively recites Amitabha’s name complies with [the teaching] of the 18 th vow. He also complies with Amitabha’s wishes. He and Amitabha Buddha are inseparable, which is known as aptitude (of sentient being) and the teaching (of Amitabha Buddha) are in one entity’.

There are two meanings of ‘holding fast the name’: one is to hold firmly faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance in mind, and the other is to exclusively recite Amitabha’s name always by mouth. ‘Holding fast’ means to hold something tightly with hands. However, Amitabha’s deliverance is intangible, so we have to receive, believe and accept it by heart.
Furthermore, though this name is intangible, it can be converted to the form of sound. So, we can recite it by mouth. To conclude, ‘holding fast the name’ means ‘faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation’. And, the aim is ‘aspiration to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land.’

Because of [Amitabha’s] perfect and complete accomplishment of the 48 vows, the Land of Bliss is formed, so that sentient beings can be reborn there. Therefore, the 48 vows are actually Amitabha Buddha himself and also the Land of Bliss by itself. Its functional capacity is to deliver sentient beings like us.

Amitabha Buddha creates the Land of Bliss for us. A drop of water, a piece of leaf, a flower or even a piece of precious stone in the Land of Bliss is ‘manifested’ in completion by Amitabha Buddha. For whom does Amitabha Buddha create them? Of course, it is for us. However, if we cannot be reborn there, the Land of Bliss is meaningless to us.
If, in order to attain rebirth, we need to dedicate [our merits and virtues] to Amitabha Buddha and aspire to be reborn [in the Land of Bliss], our rebirth will be uncertain. It also implies that, Amitabha’s target of deliverance is restrictive and limited. Who can guarantee one’s cultivation is sufficient enough to qualify or satisfy the requirements of rebirth?
In fact, as long as we have faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, and exclusively practice Amitabha-recitation, we are already delivered [by Amitabha Buddha], and attain the requirements sufficient for rebirth right the way.

With reference to the Four Noble Truths – Suffering, Accumulation, Extinction and Way in Pure Land Buddhism, ‘suffering’ means the reincarnation within the Six Realms; ‘accumulation’ means the afflictions produced by greed, hatred and illusion and ignorance leading us to reincarnation within the Six Realms. As the Land of Bliss is the realm of unconditioned nirvana, it is known as ‘extinction’ because all kinds of sufferings will extinct upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss. The way to attain rebirth in the Land of Bliss is exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s name, so it is known as ‘way’ [in the context of Pure Land Buddhism].

For the teaching of Amitabha-recitation in Pure Land sect, we have to realize Amitabha’s deliverance is proactive, equal and unconditional. Just as what the guiding principles are stated: faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, exclusive Amitabha-recitation and aspiration to Amitabha’s Pure Land.
All beings are certainly to be reborn if they exclusively recite Amitabha’s name. It is also the meanings of [characteristics of Pure Land Buddhism] - Amitabha-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards, rebirth assured in the present lifetime and non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime.
We should realize Amitabha’s such wishes, that is, the deep ‘faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance’, it is really regarded as ‘visualization of the real Buddha’, even better than visualizing his body image. Why? Because we believe clearly Buddha’s wisdom, and we act in accord with the Buddha’s wishes. We are thus always embraced by Amitabha’s light in the present lifetime, and are [assured] to see thoroughly the real dharma body of Amitabha at the time of rebirth [in the Land of Bliss].

Ordinary beings within the Six Realms who have faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, exclusively recite Amitabha’s name and aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land can be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, thus thoroughly leave the cycle of reincarnation within the Three Domains and the Six Realms, and achieve Buddhahood at the same time.
For the Theravada practitioners such as Sravakas and Pratyekabuddha, if they also wish to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, they can do so by changing [their practices] from Theravada to Mahayana [to become bodhisattvas].
For bodhisattvas, some are small and some are great. Small bodhisattvas are those in the stage of the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices and the Ten Dedications, known as the Sages of Three Benevolence. Great bodhisattvas are those in the stage of the Ten Grounds.
If all these bodhisattvas wish to expedite the achievement of Buddhahood, they should [aspire to] be reborn in the Land of Bliss. Manjusri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva set a role model [to all Buddhist practitioners], as both of them also aspire to be born in the Land of Bliss.

A practitioner of Amitabha-recitation must be true in faith, true in practice and true in aspiration. [As stated in the 18th vow,] ‘sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves, even ten times’ – ‘sincere’ means ‘true’, as mentioned in the guiding principle. We should be true in faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance. We should be true in exclusive Amitabha-recitation, and we should be true in aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land.
Till the end of our life, our decision is firm - not to be reborn in heaven, not to become humans again, but to be reborn in the western Land of Bliss. If we have faith in and acceptance to [Amitabha’s deliverance], and practice in name-recitation like that, we act in alignment with the 18 th Vow. Subsequently, one out of one will be reborn, ten out of ten will be reborn, and a hundred out of a hundred will be reborn.

What are the guiding principles of Pure Land Buddhism? It is aspiration to rebirth through Amitabha-recitation. Rebirth is thus assured at this moment. No need to talk something sophisticated, profound and peculiar. Pure Land Buddhism is the Easy Path, so it is ordinary, flat and simple. Though flat, its taste is infinite. Though simple, its reward is not simple.

Because of Master Shandao, the incarnation of Amitabha, expounds the teachings of pristine Pure Land Buddhism, we are aware that those who exclusively recite Amitabha’s name are certainly to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, and they will be capable of delivering sentient beings vastly. With this respect, we can say: Among the 84,000 kinds of Buddhist teachings, pristine Pure Land Buddhism is the most ordinary out of all ordinary ones, the most peculiar one out of all peculiar ones. It is as ordinary as eating and dressing. It is also ordinary as we do some household works, walking and driving. However, Amitabha-recitation for rebirth in the Land of Bliss is even ‘more ordinary’ than all ordinary matters.

In order to reveal the true meaning of the doctrines of Pure Land Buddhism, we should interpret it with reference to the pristine Pure Land sutras and commentaries.
If we refer the scriptures and teachings of other schools of Buddhism to interpret the Pure Land sutras and commentaries, its meanings will be distorted and deviated.
The slightest difference leads to a huge error, and a miss is as good as a mile. If we cannot correctly understand the compassionate deliverance through Amitabha’s vow power, we shall lose the real and great benefit of rebirth [in the Land of Bliss] towards Buddhahood.

For Amitabha-recitation, if we wholeheartedly pray for the blessings in future life or for rebirth in heavens, we cannot be reborn [in the Land of Bliss]. So, the 18th Vow says, “If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
We have to truly believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance and truly aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Afterwards, we simply take the exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation then we can [be reborn]. It is the meaning of ‘even ten times.’

Some people describe the Land of Bliss as a very good school with ideal environment for study, and Amitabha Buddha as the principal, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta as teachers, and other beings in the pure great sea as the kind advisers / classmates. We can get together with all these virtuous sages in one place, so we can achieve Buddhahood easily. However, this exegesis is not correct, as it violates what the sutra describes. We should strictly follow what the sutra says. What does the sutra say?
In the Infinite Life Sutra, it says, “That Buddha-land, like the realm of unconditioned nirvana, is pure and serene, resplendent and blissful. The shravakas, bodhisattvas, heavenly beings and humans there have lofty and brilliant wisdom, and are masters of the supernatural powers. They are all of one form, without any differences, but are called heavenly beings and humans, simply by analogy with the states of existence in other worlds. They are of noble and majestic countenance, unequaled in all the worlds, and their appearance is superb, unmatched by any being, heavenly or human. They are all endowed with bodies of Naturalness, Emptiness, and Infinity”
We believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name. In the [Infinite Life] Sutra, it says that we are now as ‘just as low as Maitreya [in level].’ It means our level is the same as Maitreya Bodhisattva. Maitreya Bodhisattva is at the bodhisattva level of ‘equal enlightenment’, being the candidate to become a Buddha, so it is known as ‘Buddha in one more life time.’
In other words, though we have greed, hatred and delusion with a body of ordinary being now, our status is already a bodhisattva. It means, once we believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, our level and status is the same as Maitreya Bodhisattva, the bodhisattva of equal enlightenment though we still have afflictions now.

The origin of the Pure Land teaching is belief in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance. Exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation is the supreme and simple method. Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land is our goal. Delivering sentient beings in the ten directions is our objective.
Rebirth in the Land of Bliss is not for sheltering, not for fun, but for delivering sentient beings in the ten directions. Rebirth in the Land of Bliss is always regarded as a round trip ticket. We must come back as we are reborn there. Why? It is because our mind will be opened up upon rebirth there, same as Amitabha Buddha. Not only that we achieve Buddhahood, let all others achieve Buddhahood too. We will have the full capacity to deliver sentient beings in the ten directions.

The principal objective of the ideology of Pure Land Buddhism is: sentient beings must be reborn if they recite Amitabha’s name. Everybody can do it, so it is known as‘[sentient beings of] three virtuous roots are universally included, all sharp and slow-witted are accepted, thus ten thousand people will achieve [rebirth] if there are ten thousand people practice it.”
If people have different opinions holding different views, they may think, in order to be reborn, one must add other virtuous practices, apart from Amitabha-recitation, or they think one must reach a certain ‘level’ in Amitabha-recitation practice. Though they are said to practice the Pure Land teachings apparently, they are different from the Shandao traditions, and thus known as ‘different interpretation.’ As they are different in interpretation, their practices are also different, so it is known as ‘different interpretation, different practice.’
What is meant by unlike study, unlike views and unlike perseverance? Unlike means totally different. What he studies may be the sagely path, or other sects or traditions of Pure Land Buddhism, or even not Buddhism but other religions. It is known as ‘unlike study.’ What they study is unlike, their views are unlike too. So, it is known as ‘unlike views.’ As their study and views are unlike, they must insist what they practice is correct, and regard other practices to be incorrect. It is known as ‘unlike perseverance.’

Master Shandao says, “With the Buddha’s vow power, those who commit the Five Gravest Transgressions and the Ten Wretched Deeds can be reborn [in the Land of Bliss] with all their sins extinguished; those who slander the teaching or have no virtuous root can be reborn if they dedicate and wish [to be reborn].”
Amitabha’s vow power can eradicate the offensive karma of the Five Gravest Transgressions and the Ten Wretched Deeds, so as to allow them to be reborn in the Land of Bliss. If there has no Amitabha’s vow power, they should fall in hells, similar to those who slanders teachings and those with no virtuous root. Because of Amitabha’s vow power, and their dedication, aspiration to rebirth and practice in Amitabha-recitation, they can be reborn too.
It reveals Amitabha’s teaching is really vast and boundless, just as what Amitabha Buddha says in his vow: May I attain Perfect Enlightenment, sentient beings in the ten directions. He delivers sentient beings in the ten directions without any discrimination. All those who slander teachings and those have no virtuous roots are included. If they can be reborn, it implies all other beings can be reborn.

Pure Land teaching is the belief in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance. It is not the reliance on our cultivation, our personality, our morality, our knowledge and our practice, that enable us to accept Amitabha’s deliverance and to be reborn in the Land of Bliss. Whether you have knowledge or not, whether we have moral conduct or not, whether you have cultivation in practices, all of us can accept Amitabha’s deliverance. The only concern is that we do not believe and not accept.
How can we believe and accept? It is simply exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, and aspire to be reborn Amitabha’s Pure Land. By doing so, you are regarded as accepting Amitabha’s deliverance, and understanding the principle of exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation and aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. In addition, you truly put it in practice in accordance with the teaching that is known as belief in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance.

The teaching of deliverance by Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow is spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha, and is sincerely verified by all Buddhas in the ten directions at the same time. They are perfect and complete in compassion and wisdom, so what they say is nothing wrong, trustworthy, with no doubt.

[Amitabha’s] Vow power and Name are of one entity, but just in different names. Belief in vow power and is the same as belief in name. Belief in name means belief in Amitabha-recitation. So, name, faith (deep belief), Amitabha-recitation are basically are of one entity, but in different names. Name is faith, faith is Amitabha-recitation. If we believe by heart and accept Amitabha’s name of the Fundamental Vow, we will naturally utter the Name as stated in the Fundamental Vow.

A person who believes and accepts Amitabha’s deliverance, aspires to be reborn in the Land of Bliss and exclusively recites Amitabha’s name, he is inseparable with Amitabha Buddha for the entire life. Amitabha Buddha is always with him, and he is always with Amitabha Buddha. It is known as ‘[Amitabha] Buddha invokes sentient beings and sentient beings are in Buddha’s mind. Sentient beings invoke [Amitabha] Buddha, the Buddha is also in the mind of sentient beings. They are one, inseparable.

The real Samadhi is your aspiration to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, and your exclusive practice in Amitabha’s name, with no mixed and miscellaneous practices. Rebirth is assured, so, in our school, it is known as the Samadhi of Amitabha-recitation.

Always be mindful of believing and accepting Amitabha’s deliverance, and practicing exclusive Amitabha-recitation, without forsaking, that is the Samadhi of Amitabha-recitation. So long as he believes and accepts Amitabha’s deliverance, regardless of his occupation, regardless recitation is performed with concentrated or distracted mind. It is also known the Samadhi of Amitabha-recitation. It we don’t understand this principle of the Pure Land teachings, you cannot exclusively study and exclusively uphold [the practice], thus you will be deviated [from the correct path] and get lost.

A person who truly believes and accept Amitabha’s deliverance will exclusively recite ‘Namo Amituofo’ for the rest of his life. His purpose of [reciting] is to leave the reincarnation within the Six Realms, and to be reborn in the Land of Bliss where various kinds of sufferings do not exist and all kinds of joys are experienced. The Amitabha-reciter knows clearly that he is very intimate and very close with Amitabha as they are inseparable like water mixed with milk. They are in one entity, inseparable.

Who can be reborn in the Land of Bliss? Surely those who exclusively recite Amitabha’s name for their entire life. A person who exclusively recites Amitabha’s name is assured of rebirth in the Land of Bliss. He exclusively recite Amitabha’s name because he has a motive and an aim. His motive and aim must be liberation from the Saha World, and aspiration to rebirth in the Land of Bliss, otherwise he does not recite this name.
If he has this motive to exclusively recite this name, it is no longer important whether he understands the principle of Amitabha’s deliverance because his rebirth is assured. He has already fulfilled the requirements – renunciation in the Land of Saha and aspiration to rebirth in the Land of Bliss, and exclusively practice Amitabha-recitation.

Ordinary beings of the lowest class attain rebirth in the highest realm of reward land. It is entirely because of the reliance on Amitabha’s great karmic vow power, nothing to do with the power of our own practices. It is similar to a cripple who can travel ten thousand miles with the aid of an airplane.
In this respect, in Pure Land Buddhism, we do not consider the depth and the magnitude of merits and virtues attained through our self-powered practices, and the amount of our karmic offenses. We only count on whether we believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance and whether we can exclusively recite Amitabha’s name. If you believe, get rebirth; if don’t, no rebirth.

Upon hearing Amitabha has attained the Perfect Enlightenment, we should know the merits and virtues of his Perfect enlightenment are the same merits and virtues that we require for rebirth and achieving Buddhahood. If we hear Bodhisattva Dharmakara has achieved the Perfect Enlightenment and become Amitabha Buddha, but we do not agree that he has accomplished the merits and virtues necessary for our rebirth and achieving Buddhahood, we are not deemed to be ‘hearing’ because our hearing is not sufficient, thus our faith is deficient.

In the Larger Sutra, it says, “Even one thought” (as short as one thought in time). It also says, “Even ten thoughts” (as long as one lifetime). In the Smaller Sutra, it says, “in one day up to 7 days.”
It shows that a person, upon hearing Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, sets forth a thought of faith in Amitabha-recitation. Thereafter, he is already delivered to be reborn in the Land of Bliss. He then holds fast Amitabha’s name and recites for the rest of his life.
This kind of Amitabha-recitation is not ‘pretentious’ or deliberate in action. That is to say, the meaning of Amitabha-recitation is ‘no-meaning’. It also means, it has no qualification or discrimination in the individual’s personal particulars, say monastic or householder, good or evil; it has absolutely no limitation in time and space under any circumstance.
It also means ‘taking faith as an expedient means, leap to reach through the easy practice’, ‘name-recitation for faith, ‘independent action of the name’, etc.

[The practitioners in] our Pure Land school is to believe and accept Amitabha’s compassionate and equal deliverance, and to be devoted to Amitabha’s compassionate and equal deliverance. Whether you are sharp or slow-witted in aptitude, we must rely on Amitabha’s power if we wish to be reborn in the Land of Bliss. How to believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance? We only need to exclusively recite Amitabha’s name.
Exclusive practice of Amitabha’s name is the cause and the respective reward is rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Taking Amitabha-recitation as a method and rebirth as our goal. Rebirth refers to rebirth in the Land of Bliss, i.e. to be reborn, by manifestation, in the form of lotus flower in the Land of Bliss. It is not generally called ‘death.’ The effect of rebirth is certain because Amitabha-recitation is the cause. It is known as ‘such an effect with such a cause.’ So, it is natural to have the reward because of the respective cause.

As long as we recite Amitabha’s name, we will be bestowed by Amitabha’s deliverance, and assured of rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land.

The three dogmas – “have faith in and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, recite exclusively Amitabha’s name, and aspire to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land” are the guiding principles that cover the entire Pure Land teaching. In short, it refers to the faith, aspiration, and practice.
The faith, aspiration, and practice are not separated; they are mutually inclusive. When we profess the faith, the aspiration and practice are included in the faith; when we cherish the aspiration, the faith and practice are included in the aspiration; when we commence the practice, the faith and aspiration are included in the practice.
Moreover, the function of Amitabha’s name is to embrace and receive those sentient beings who recite the Name for rebirth in the Land of Bliss. So, eventually, both the faith and aspiration will merge with the practice. In this respect, we can say that the faith and aspiration are the expedient means prior to the practice.

In fact, so long as you keep reciting the name, whether you have faith or not, you are assured of rebirth as faith is already within it. More explicitly, as long as he aspires to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, he is assured of rebirth. Whether you believe or not believe, as you follow this way to do, you will reach the destination because your method is correct, so your goal must be achieved.

With respect to the general (Buddhist) teachings, the doctrine of impermanence and the aspiration to leave [the cycle of birth and death] are the most basic ones. In the Pure Land teachings, however, we have to add two more: the teaching of wickedness and the teaching of deliverance.
Following the Sacred Path, Buddhist practitioners resolve to leave [the cycle of birth and death] with the doctrine of impermanence, and then cultivate themselves with their own effort, hoping that they can clear their karmic hindrances and liberate themselves from reincarnation using their own power.
Practitioners of Pure Land teachings, however, go further to realize that they are iniquitous ordinary beings trapped in the cycle of birth and death, unable to practice any (sacred) teachings, and, eventually, have little karmic conditions to leave [the cycle of birth and death].
Being such kind of sentient beings, we are fortunate to have Amitabha Buddha who built the Land of Bliss for us, and fulfilled his vow of the great six-character name. Hence, practitioners who merely aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name will be assured deliverance by Amitabha right the way, and will be born in the Land of Bliss at the hour of death.

Amitabha-reciters should know that Amitabha Buddha is very intimate, always stays with us. The operation is not undertaken by me, or by any other preachers of the Pure Land teachings, but by Amitabha Buddha who advocates [Pure Land Buddhism]. We are just the limbs of Amitabha Buddha.
Amitabha Buddha is responsible for all the results – be it a failure or success. Amitabha Buddha will deal with all the matters and we have nothing to worry about. We just concentrate our energy on reciting ‘Namo Amituofo’ exclusively – this is the special feature as well as the guiding principle of our teaching. If we don’t recite ‘Namo Amituofo’ exclusively, we are deviating from the guiding principle of this teaching.

Although Amitabha Buddha set down the conditions of deliverance, in reality, those conditions are minimal, almost unconditional. As long as we believe in and accept Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance, aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, and then recite his name whenever we’re available in time, the conditions are met. It doesn’t matter whether we have affliction during Amitabha-recitation, or whether we have distracted and miscellaneous thoughts. Hence, we can say the conditions almost do not exist.

The guiding principles of Pure Land Buddhism are “faith in and acceptance to Amitabha’s deliverance, aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land, and exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s name”. An Amitabha-reciter who believes in Buddha and his deliverance must recite, without forsaking, under any circumstance while walking, standing, sitting, or lying. Due to differences in capacity and aptitude, the forms that practitioners take, of course, are varied; but, the basics are common: reciting after reciting without forsaking.

Upon believing in and accepting Amitabha’s deliverance, we should first exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, and hence settle our own major life event—rebirth [in the Land of Bliss]. Hereafter, we can propagate what we have learned and believe inappropriate under the circumstances and according to our duties, responsibilities and our capacity. That is what Master Shandao says, “Have faith and teach what you believe.”

Those who disseminate the Pure Land teaching are of great compassion and of great wisdom. Those who accept and practice the Pure Land teachings are of great virtuous roots and of great blessings. This is what the Buddhist scripture have enlightened: If one hasn’t practiced the meditative and non-meditative virtues, one cannot hear the right teachings.
If we have not accumulated merits and virtues of meditative and non-meditative practices in numerous lifetimes, it will be very difficult for us to come across this splendid teaching in this lifetime. Hence, we must cherish the learning of this Dharma, and introduce this teaching to others, so as to repay gratitude to the Buddha, as well as to render real benefits to sentient beings.

The Infinite Life Sutra writes, “If there are people who hear the name of that Buddha, rejoice so greatly as to dance, and remember him even once, then you should know that they have gained great benefit by receiving the unsurpassed virtue’. Gaining great benefit with unsurpassed virtue by just one joyful name-recitation. So, we will gain even more if we exclusively recite Amitabha’s name upon believing and accepting Amitabha’s deliverance because every single recitation generates unsurpassed merit and virtues.
Exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation is abundant in root of virtues and in merits, great in root of virtues and in merits, foremost in root of virtues and in merits and unsurpassed in root of virtues and merits. Within the holdfast of [Amitabha’s] name, all roots of virtues and merits necessary for achieving Buddhahood as a result of rebirth are already contained.

Buddha’s wisdom refers to the Buddha-wisdom, inconceivable wisdom, ineffable wisdom, boundless Mahayana wisdom, and incomparable, unequaled, unsurpassed and supreme wisdom. Can we comprehend these five kinds of wisdom? Of course not! It is because it is a realm of all buddhas, so it can be comprehended by buddhas only, even those of the Two Vehicles cannot. Where are the fivefold wisdom? It is within Amitabha’s 18th Vow.
If Amitabha Buddha has not attained perfect Enlightenment, how can he have the fivefold wisdom? The merits of the Enlightenment is reflected on “by calling my Name, even ten times, you are assured of rebirth”, therefore “resolute faith in Buddha’s wisdom” means deep faith in: all good and evil ordinary beings are assured of rebirth, only if they aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, and always exclusively recite Amitabha’s name.

“Firmly believe in Buddha’s wisdom” means to have faith in and acceptance of Amitabha’s deliverance. “Do meritorious and virtuous deeds” means to exclusively recite Amitabha’s name. Referring to Amitabha’s great name with a myriad of virtues, the Infinite Life Sutra writes, “If there are people who hear the Name of that Buddha, rejoice so greatly as to dance, and remember him even once, then you should know that they have gained great benefit by receiving the unsurpassed virtue.”
This name fully possesses unsurpassed merits and virtues, so once we recite this single name, we are “doing meritorious and virtuous deeds”. Believing in “sentient beings are assured of rebirth by name-recitation” is known as “sincerely transfer the merits one has acquired”.

Amitabha Buddha facilitates us to believe in his deliverance (to sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to [my deliverance]), to call us to aspire to be reborn in his Pure Land (wish to be reborn in my land) and to recite his name naturally (call his name even ten times). So, it says, for entrustment (faith), rebirth-aspiration mind (aspiration) and name-recitation (practice), all of them are given by Amitabha Buddha to us.

Faith, aspiration and practice are just one - in one entity. At the moment we put faith in Amitabha’s deliverance, the mind of aspiration to rebirth [in the Land of Bliss] is naturally awakened, and as a matter of course we produce from the bottom of our heart “Namo Amitabha. Namo Amitabha, Namo Amitabha” (note: namo means taking refuge, specifically indicating our temperament of taking refuge). By reciting this name, we express our feelings of receiving and accepting Amitabha’s deliverance.

We are already fully qualified for rebirth, all-sufficient merits and virtues for rebirth, and the power required for rebirth, right at the moment of our belief and acceptance, our aspiration to rebirth and our Amitabha-recitation. It is said in the sutra, “to attain rebirth immediately, and dwell in the state of non-retrogression”.
So, when we recite this name every time, every recitation is already sufficient for our rebirth. It is NOT like that: let me wait and be mindful of this name till the end of our life, so my rebirth is assured when Amitabha Buddha appears before me. My mind is eventually settled at that moment.
As Amitabha-reciters, even though we lie on bed, close to death, with pains all over our sick body, and we are not capable of remembering and reciting Amitabha’s name, our mind is still completely settled because we know that we are always embraced within Amitabha’s light. Our mind will not be unrested, or not in doubt, or not with anxiety because of failing to recite Amitabha’s name during suffering. Not like that, because we have already heard and believed in Amitabha’s deliverance well before this moment.

Having faith must have joy; having joy must have aspiration to rebirth; having aspiration to rebirth must have recitation of Amitabha’s name; having recitation of Amitabha’s name must have rebirth [in the Land of Bliss]. If you have faith and joy, aspiration to rebirth and Amitabha-recitation, you will certainly be reborn. Amitabha has great compassion for sentient beings and does not put them in any difficult position.
The requirements for rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land are just that simple and easy. It sounds like having conditions, but actually not. [Amitabha] give the splendid Land of Bliss to all sentient beings for free, so we can say Amitabha’s deliverance is “proactive, equal, and unconditional”.
In brief, there are only two requirements for rebirth in the Land of Bliss: firstly, aspiration to rebirth, and secondly, Amitabha-recitation, of which the duration ranges from one life time at most down to at least ten times, five times, one time, or even one thought at the final moment of life—in all cases one can get reborn.
Faith is the prerequisite for aspiration to rebirth and Amitabha-recitation: we should have faith in and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, have faith in and accept the splendid Land of Bliss, and have faith in and accept that rebirth is assured by Amitabha-recitation. As aspiration to rebirth is based on faith and acceptance, Amitabha-recitation should not be a problem at all-- just open one’s mouth and recite.
Who can’t do that? If you are speech-impaired or seriously ill, you can recite Amitabha’s name by heart. If Amitabha-recitation is not a problem, rebirth should not be a problem too. So, it is simple, easy, obvious, not complicated, not difficult and not profound. All of us are able to do and achieve it, and able to be reborn without any obstruction.

Master Shandao says, “It is difficult for us to believe, and even more difficult to instill the belief into other’s mind. By popularization of the teaching of deliverance with great compassion, we truly repay the gratitude to the Buddha. ”
We are ordinary beings full of greed, anger and delusion. We are self-centered in every single thought, and have little compassion to others, not to mention great compassion. Don’t we? However, if we people who believe in Amitabha’s deliverance and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name also teach others to do the same, we shall become people of great compassion and with the power of the Great Vow. Why?
It is because the sole purpose of all Buddhas of the past, present and future coming to this world is to deliver and save sentient beings with their merits and virtues, set them free from reincarnation within the Six Realms—particularly the Three Wretched Realms, as well as from the retribution in the realm of Avici hell.
Once we have had the faith in the teaching and also teach others to believe, enabling them to achieve rebirth in the Land of Bliss through Amitabha-recitation, we fulfill the original intent of the Buddha’s appearance in this world, fulfill the great benevolence and great compassion of the Buddha, and fulfill the spirit of deliverance [of sentient beings] from sufferings.

An Amitabha-reciter who believes and accepts believe Amitabha’s deliverance, exclusively Amitabha’s name, and instills the belief into other’s mind is of great wisdom with great retributive blessing. He is a person having great root of virtues with great merits. He is a person having great vow power with great compassion. For an Amitabha-reciter of this kind, Shakyamuni Buddha praises him as white lotus flower, wonderful, supreme, rare and most splendid among humankind. So, an Amitabha-reciter is very rare and precious.

Don’t worry about being incapable of delivering sentient beings through dharma- preaching, but worry about failure to attain rebirth. Don’t worry about failure to attain rebirth, but worry about your doubt on Amitabha’s deliverance. Don’t worry about your doubt on Amitabha’s deliverance, but worry about not reciting Amitabha’s name. By reciting Amitabha’s name, you are assured of attaining rebirth.

If a person is uncertain about his future, he must not be joyful at present. Conversely, if a person feels secured about his future, he must be in peace and steady. So, for Amitabha-reciters, if a person deeply believes that he will be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land in future, his mind must be settled, and he must be happy.

All buddhas in the ten directions speak of the teachings of deliverance of sentient beings, however, at the very end, they conclude to the Pure Land teaching that enables numerous beings to become buddhas. For this teaching, unless you don’t exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, and you don’t aspire to be reborn Amitabha’s Pure Land, none of those who aspire and exclusively recite will not be reborn.

Though the Buddhist teaching is near extinction, the Buddha will, through his paranormal power, keep the Pure Land scriptures in the world without extinct. Why? It is because it is the sole teaching that can deliver sentient beings of the ten directions.
It is the hope and the light for all sentient beings. If this teaching is lost, there will be no light in the universe, no hope for sentient beings. So, the buddhas of great kindness and compassion in the ten directions will keep this teaching in the world though all other teachings were lost.

For conditional causation in the context of substances, such as for a plant to blossom and produce fruits, two conditions are required: condition of the cause (hetu-pratyaya in Sanskrit) and condition of augmentation (adhipati-pratyaya in Sanskrit). With sunlight, fertilizer, water, and air, a seed will grow to flowering and fruiting. In the context of the mind of sentient beings like us, however, four types of conditions must exist: condition of the cause, condition of uninterrupted continuity (samanantara-pratyaya), condition of the object (ālambana-pratyaya) and condition of augmentation, of which the former three refer to ourselves.
We have the innate Buddha’s mind-nature; our continuous thoughts take an object—that is the Land of Bliss, and we aspire to be reborn there. In such situation, we possess three conditions: the cause, the uninterrupted continuity, and the object.
So, the condition of cause is our innate Buddha-mind, with which we can achieve Buddhahood once we are reborn. This condition also causes us to aspire for rebirth by Buddha-invocation. The next comes the continuation of this thought with no interruption. If we aspire for rebirth by Buddha-invocation today, but change the mind on the next, then we will never get the result as we originally thought. That is why the condition of uninterrupted continuity is necessary. The thought of rebirth by Buddha-invocation leads to another question: where do we want to be reborn? To be reborn in the Land of Bliss is our goal, and the destination is, hence, an object. Here comes the condition of the object.
Can we be reborn with presence of these conditions? Yes, we can; but why? It is due to the vow power and might of Amitabha Buddha. So, Amitabha’s power is our final condition of augmentation. If the augmentative condition doesn’t exist, we are unable to attain rebirth. In short, to possess all the four conditions, we should exclusively recite Amitabha’s name and aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, as stated in the guiding principles of the Pure Land Charter.

In studying Buddhism, we have to understand the concept of ‘emptiness’, but it is more important to practice the teaching of Amitabha-recitation of Amitabha Buddha. Though it is said to ‘practice’, it is not a matter of ‘practice’, but just reciting his name.Every individual recites Amitabha’s name in accordance with his occupation, statusand aptitude. Amitabha’s deliverance is equal. Moreover, he calls sentient beings ofthe ten directions proactively, and rescue them to the Land of Bliss. If we have a tinybit of aspiration in our mind, Amitabha Buddha will be very happy and excited.
It is nothing in vain in Amitabha-recitation. Our effort must be rewarded. We merely aspire to be reborn and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, then we are deemed to be aligned with Amitabha’s deliverance, and we are assured of rebirth in Amitabha’sPure Land.

Amitabha Buddha has the merits and virtues that enable him to deliver sentient beings in the ten directions. His power is generated by his immeasurable bodhisattva’s virtuous practices for the countless eons for the purpose of delivering sentient beings in the ten directions. All these merits and virtues are practiced and built solely for sentient beings in the ten directions, and completely dedicated to we sentient beings in the ten directions with no reservation.
Hence, only if we exclusively recite Amitabha’s name and aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, we receive and accept Amitabha’s merits and virtues in every single recitation. It can eradicate our karmic offenses of the Five Gravest Transgressions and the Ten Evil Actions, slandering the correct dharma like the Icchantika (the vilest, most deluded beings). It also provides us the necessary merits and virtues that enables us to be certainly reborn.
So, the reason why we can leave the hells and be reborn in the Land of Bliss is not because of our virtuous capacity, our cultivation, but entirely rely on the vow power and the Budhda power of Amitabha Buddha.
Although Amitabha vows to deliver us, we must also agree to be delivered; otherwise, the two sides do not match with each other. Subsequently, we shall continue to reincarnate in the Three Domains and the Six Realms. It is similar to the light that has the function of illuminating: it will not brighten if we do not turn it on. Or, like the moon: although it can be reflected on the surface of water, its image will not be casted on the water of a tank if we do not open the lid, which makes the moon and the water not matching with each other.
Above all, don’t worry about that we have committed the five gravest transgressions and Ten Evil Actions, and have slandered the correct Dharma like the Icchantika (the vilest, most deluded beings); do worry about that we do not believe in and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, do not exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, and do not aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land.

We are assured to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, to accomplish the perfect and complete enlightenment expediently, and to deliver sentient beings of the Saha world, or even in the worlds of the ten directions with speedy return, as long as we believe and accept Amitabha’s deliverance, exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, and aspire to be reborn in his Pure Land. Is this not the original intent of Shakyamuni Buddha and the purpose of studying Buddhism being completely incorporated in our teaching – Pure Land Buddhism? This is the feature of our teaching, which is very splendid and precious. Hope that all of us will cherish and treasure it.

Being an ordinary being with all kinds of afflictions, a person who is aware of his own iniquitousness that leads to endless rebirth should admire at Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow and recite his Name single-mindedly. He will then receive the benefits of splendid merits and virtues in the present life as well as in the future.
Now that he admires at the Land of Bliss, believes and accepts Amitabha’s deliverance, all his boundless karmic offenses will be eliminated immediately. He will neither suffer from endless reincarnations in the future, nor be reborn in any of the four modes of the six rebirths (womb, egg, moisture, or transformation) since the cause has vanished and so do the effects.
Among all Buddha’s teachings from his enlightenment to his nirvana, nothing is so straightforward like this [i.e. Amitabha-recitation], and nothing is so complete and immediate like this. Name-recitation in accordance with Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, among others, is the only teaching that horizontally transcends [the cycle of rebirth] and cuts [off the four currents: desires, life, illusions, and ignorance], that can be realized completely and immediately, and that is simple, easy, and readily secured.
We are ordinary beings who commit unfathomable offenses because we have been reborn many times. Because our offenses are unfathomable, Amitabha’s grace received is also endless. Hence, our mind of paying gratitude is also endless.
END
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Master Huijing

Master Huijing

Master Jingzong

Master Jingzong

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