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 Characteristics of Pure Land Buddhism – General

Every school and every branch has its own characteristics. The so-called ‘characteristics’ are the unique qualities that differentiate from other religious schools. Buddhist teachings of a great variety were expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha to cater for people of different capacities and aptitudes. When the 84,000 kinds of teachings were disseminated to China, the patriarchs (highly esteemed masters) classified them based on the capabilities of their populace. Thus were born the different schools of Buddhism. Each of them has its own qualities that form the characteristics of its own school different from others. The characteristics of Pure Land School are as follows:
  • The Recitation of the Name of Amitabha Buddha in accord with his Fundamental Vow
  • Rebirth of ordinary beings in Amitabha’s Pure Land
  • Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
  • Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
It signifies the method, the aim, and the magnificent advantages in the Pure Land teaching.

The so-called ‘characteristics’ are the fundamental qualities and defined nature of a matter. The characteristics of Pure Land School are unique in the classification of the teachings, which are different from other schools of the Sagely Path and surpass all other pure lands of Buddhas. These characteristics can thoroughly reveal and elaborate the teaching of Amitabha’s deliverance.
Its theory is based on the 18th Vow among Amitabha’s 48 vows, and the 18th Vow is called the ‘Vow of Rebirth through Amitabha-Recitation’. It is the king of all vows, the fundamental vow, a particular vow for all, different from other vows. For these reasons, it is called the Fundamental Vow.
All good and evil ordinary beings who merely recite Amitabha’s name can, with recourse to his Fundamental Vow, naturally be embraced by Amitabha’s light in the present lifetime, and they will directly enter Amitabha’s reward land at the end of their lives, and thereafter expedite the fruition of Buddhahood. In this respect, they attain “rebirth assured in the present lifetime” and “non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime.” They are no longer ordinary beings in the Land of Saha, but already the sagely beings in the Land of Bliss.
Needless to dedicate a myriad of virtuous practices and aspire to rebirth, [name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow] transcends horizontally all grades and levels of rebirth. It is inconceivable because it is perfect, sudden, splendid, and easy. It cannot be perceived by practitioners of the Two Vehicles, and only those in the Buddha realm can fully realize.
Specifically speaking, it can be summarized in four sentences:
Name-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,
Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime.

Name-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,
Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime.
These are the unique characteristics of Pure Land School. Amitabha’s deliverance is uniquely revealed, which is not common with other schools in the Sagely Paths, and also surpasses other Buddhas’ pure lands.
It is simple and easy [in practice], secured and assured [in rebirth]; yet the reward is extremely profound and wonderful, and can be perfectly and expediently achieved. Three kinds of sentient beings with different virtuous roots are all included [in Amitabha’s deliverance], and people of brilliant and slow-witted capacities are all embraced. For all people with varied aptitude, none is excluded [from Amitabha’s deliverance], and rebirth can be expediently achieved in one lifetime.

The ‘Fundamental Vow’ explains the principle of the Pure Land teaching; ‘name-recitation’ explains the method of practice; ‘ordinary beings’ refer to the adherents and aspirants [those to be included in Amitabha’s deliverance]; ‘rebirth in the reward land’ refers to the benefit resulted from the teaching.
For ‘name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow’ and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land realm of reward’, it expounds the teaching, practice, adherents and benefits. It means, because of Amitabha’s deliverance by his Fundamental Vow, all good and evil ordinary beings who aspire to rebirth and recite Amitabha’s name can be reborn in the real Land of Bliss, the flawless realm of nirvana.
Moreover, the entire matter of rebirth has perfectly accomplished in the present life right the way. There is no need to wait until the near-end of life. Practitioners also attain the stage of non-retrogression immediately here in this world. There is no need to wait for rebirth there in the Land of Bliss.

What are the characteristics of the pristine Pure Land teaching?
The first characteristic is ‘exclusivity’. The main cause of rebirth is Amitabha’s Name – Namo Amituofo. Therefore, as Pure Land practitioners, we must exclusively recite Namo Amituofo. With merits and virtues contained in Amitabha’s Name, we can be reborn in the Land of Bliss with total reliance on the power of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, not on our power and skills.
The second characteristic is ‘easiness’. That is to say, the practice of the pristine Pure Land teaching is easy and joyful. It is because the recitation of ‘Namo Amituofo’ can be easily done by all of us, isn’t it? Moreover, reciting ‘Namo Amituofo’ is easy to do, and the practice is peaceful and joyful.
The third characteristic is ‘rebirth assured in the present lifetime’. [For rebirth,] We do not rely on our power; just simply come on board the ship of Amitabha Buddha’s great vow. By exclusively reciting Amitabha’s name and aspiring to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, we are deemed to be on board, and our rebirth is assured, one hundred percent certain!

Whoever recites Amitabha’s name will be assured, with recourse to Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, of direct rebirth in his reward land without going through different grades and levels. And, that person is also immediately embraced and protected, without forsaking, by Amitabha’s light in this present life. In addition, he is always kept away from disasters and is also given countless blessings. He will be received by Amitabha with a multitude of sagely beings near the end-of-life. Being conveyed upon a lotus flower, he will be reborn in the reward land, and expediently attain the fruition of Buddhahood.
Simply speaking, rebirth is attained in the present life, and there is no need to wait until the end of life. Non-retrogression is also attained here in this lifetime, and there is no need to wait to be reborn there in the Land of Bliss. As soon as we are near the end-of-life, we will enter Amitabha’s reward land, and attain the purple gold body imbued with the same infinite light and infinite life as Amitabha.
This is the meaning of:
Amitabha-recitation in accord the Fundamental Vow
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 main characteristics of Pure Land Buddhism are: name-recitation in accordance with the Fundamental Vow, rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards, rebirth assured in the present lifetime, non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime. Generally speaking, these four lines indicate ‘easiness’ and ‘splendour’ [of the teaching].
However, the characteristic of ‘easiness’ will be lost if we do not follow the lifeline of Master Shandao’s lineage. Once the characteristic of ‘easiness’ is lost, the teaching is not considered to be the Pure Land School. It is because every school has its own guiding principles that are not common with other schools, which are the characteristics of its teachings. The characteristic of our teaching is ‘easiness.’

Every school of teaching [in Buddhism] has its own guiding principles. Every guiding principle has its own characteristics. If there is no guiding principle in a school of teaching, it cannot be regarded as a school. Moreover, guiding principles of a school must be different from those of all other schools. What is the guiding principle of the Pure Land teaching? It is ‘rebirth through Amitabha-recitation’.
If it is not ‘rebirth through Amitabha-recitation’, it is not the Pure Land teaching. Then, what are its characteristics? It is easiness and splendour; that’s why Pure Land teaching is also known as the ‘Easy Path.’
‘Easy’ does not mean superficial or inferior in attaining merits and virtues. Therefore, Nagarjuna Bodhisattva says, “If one wants to reach the state of non-retrogression quickly, one should reverently hold fast to and recite the Name.” Just holding and reciting the Name, one can attain the state of non-retrogression quickly.
With respect to the Teaching of the Common Path, ‘non-retrogression’ consists of non-retrogression in position, non-retrogression in practice, and non-retrogression in thought. However, what does Nagarjuna Bodhisattva mean when he talks about non-retrogression here? It is the non-retrogression in Buddhahood. That is to say, one does not retrogress from the Buddha level and it is certain that one securely positions oneself in the state of Buddhahood.
The state of Buddhahood is known as ‘becoming a Buddha in one more life.’ It means, one will become a Buddha as long as one is reborn in the Land of Bliss. So, all sagely beings in the Land of Bliss will become Buddhas in one more lifetime. The Amitabha Sutra says, “All sentient beings born in the Land of Bliss dwell in Avinivartaniya [the Stage of Non-retrogression]. Many of them are in the stage of becoming a Buddha in one more life.”
The Infinite Life Sutra also says, “All beings are ultimate in the stage of becoming a Buddha in one more life.” The Amitabha Sutra in the Sanskrit version says that all those reborn in the Land of Bliss become pure, non-retrogressing ‘Buddhas in one more life.’ So, the characteristic of the Pure Land school is ‘easiness’; however, within ‘easiness,’ it has the connotation of ‘splendour.’

It is because name-recitation is specified by Amitabha in his Fundamental Vow, so it is called ‘name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow.’
‘Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’ means: even an ordinary being, who is full of hatred, greed, delusion, and is bound by karmic forces, can be reborn in the Land of Bliss, Amitabha’s reward land. Moreover, upon rebirth, we can expedite the achievement of Buddhahood despite of the fact that greed, hatred and delusion have not been eradicated.
“Rebirth assured in the present lifetime” and ‘non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime’ – ‘present lifetime’ means now, and the matter of rebirth is accomplished now. It means we are no longer ordinary beings subject to reincarnation of birth-and-death, but are already sagely beings in the Land of Bliss. We remain living here until the life of our physical body ends. Once our bodily life comes to an end, we can be reborn in the Land of Bliss.

In Pure Land school, it is regarded Amitabha Buddha is a reward Buddha and the pure Land of Bliss is a reward land. A reward land is also known as a land for enjoyment. The Buddha enjoys the dharma bliss he attains [as a reward of practices], and shares the same with others (bodhisattvas). Amitabha-recitation is the cause, and Amitabha’s vow is the condition; when both factors come together in harmony, all beings of the Five Vehicles are bestowed to enter the reward land equally.

From the point of view of the Sagely Path [for bodhisattva practices], a reward land is a land for rebirth of bodhisattvas only. In order to be reborn there, ordinary beings must rely on and entrust themselves to the power of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. This is known as ‘name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, and rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards.’

The Fundamental Vow is the root principle of Amitabha’s deliverance and name-recitation is the method of Amitabah’s deliverance. Ordinary beings are those to be delivered by Amitabha, and rebirth in the reward land is the aim of Amitabha’s deliverance. Thus, name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow is the cause, and rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards is the respective result.

Name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow and rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land realm of rewards are the unique and distinctive flags of our teaching. Ever since, we have not seen these words were used to signify the core principles of the teaching, though there may be similar wordings. However, it is not my creation because these terms and concepts are found in the sutras and related scriptures.
For instance, we can see the words ‘Fundamental Vow’ in the sutras and in the commentaries of the patriarchs. In the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra, Master Shandao explained the principle of ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the realm of rewards’ and particularly illustrated it with a set of question and answer. So, ‘name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land realm of rewards’ is the golden words spoken by the Buddha and transmitted by bodhisattvas. It is substantial with solid evidence.

There are commentaries and practices about Amitabha’s Land of Bliss in all other schools of the Sagely Path. However, they explain the meanings and analyze the Buddha-invocation with the theories of their own schools. For that reason, they talk about the Mere Consciousness, Self-Nature, Real-Mark, contemplation, no-mark, dual practices, etc. Because of the miscellaneous practices and mixed cultivation, the splendid meaning of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, the primary practice of Amitabha-recitation, and the resulting benefits of rebirth become confused and unclear, hidden and implicit.
They are known as ‘different interpretation, different practice, unlike study, unlike view, unlike perseverance’, etc., as stated by Master Shandao, the de facto founder of Pure Land School.

Pure Land teaching is a Path of Easy Practice. So, in simple terms, the characteristic of Pure Land Buddhism is ‘easiness’. If the method of practice does not comply with ‘easiness’, it is not regarded as the Pure Land School.

Pure Land teachings must be easy [to practice], otherwise they could not be called the Pure Land school [in Buddhism]. Regarding Amitabha’s deliverance of sentient beings in the ten directions, we simply aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land and exclusively recite Amitabha’s name. Thus, we come on board Amitabha’s ship of vow power. If there were many other restrictions in his deliverance, Amitabha Buddha’s compassion would be limited, not unlimited.
Amitabha-recitation does not rely on our power, and not rely on our merits and virtues for rebirth in the Land of Bliss too; but, it relies on Amitabha’s Name. It is because the Name has the function of bestowing rebirth that is accomplished by Amitabha’s vow power. So, our [practice in] Amitabha-recitation already implies the reliance on Amitabha’s vow power and it aligns and accords with Amitabha’s vow power.

The Pure Land teaching is: we merely aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss and exclusively recite “Namo Amituofo”; thus, we are assured to be reborn under any circumstance. With this concept, we don’t need to worry, but joyfully accept all kinds of worldly happiness and suffering, good times and adversities. Regardless of our occupation, we simply recite “Namo Amituofo” under any circumstances in terms of time and space.
We are not concerned about whether we recite more or recite less; but, simply recite when conditions allow. We do not bother whether our mind is pure or not pure; but, simply recite Amitabha’s name until the end of our life. We do not care about miscellaneous thoughts. We do not worry about the state of our mind. This is the characteristic and splendour of the Pure Land teaching.

‘Name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow’ and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’ are the most fundamental teachings in our school, and the core principles of our teaching. In the teachings of Pure Land School, if we do not mention that the easiest method - name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, and do not mention that the Pure Land that we are reborn is a reward land, it is not teaching of pristine Pure Land School.
It is not pristine because the practitioner, in general, does not fully understand the commentaries and does not follow Master Shandao’s teaching principles.

Master Shandao wrote the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra for the purpose of clarifying the deviant views and advocating the correct meanings of Pure Land Buddhism. ‘Deviant’ does not mean ‘evil’, but means ‘distorted’. In explaining the Contemplation Sutra, other masters did not mention ‘Amitabha-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow’ and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’; hence, they did not agree that ordinary beings can be reborn in reward land through name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow.
In order to rectify the incorrectness of these concepts, Master Shandao wrote the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra, and another four books with five fascicles. He intended to explain clearly the fundamental meanings of Pure Land Buddhism - Amitabha-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow and rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards.
In the Sui and Tang dynasties, many eminent masters like Huiyuan, Zhizhe, and Jiaxiang also wrote commentaries on the Infinite Life Sutra and the Contemplation Sutra. However, their comments on the Pure Land sutras were different from the fundamental and core teaching of pristine Pure Land Buddhism.
Those teachings were incorrect because they did not follow the teachings of the Infinite Life Sutra. Hence, they did not realize the fundamental meaning that Amitabha made his vows for the sagely and ordinary, good and evil sentient beings in the ten directions. They explained the Pure Land sutras based on their own schools’ teachings and with their own understandings. Due to these deviations, many Pure Land practitioners gave up their [Pure Land] practices.
In order to rectify these deviations, Master Shandao wrote the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra, and Master Daochuo, Master Shandao’s teacher, wrote the Collection of Peace and Joy. So, we know that ‘name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow’ and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’ are very important to us. It should not be ambiguous and misinterpreted.

Only because of ‘name-recitation with respect to the Fundamental Vow’ and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’, our teaching is said to be splendid and easy. If a Pure Land practitioner does not understand, believe, and accept ‘name-recitation with respect to the Fundamental Vow’, and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards,’ he will not be fully confident in being reborn in this present lifetime. Furthermore, isn’t it meant all the work done by Amitabha Buddha, who made and fulfilled his 48 great bodhisattva vows through contemplative practices in five eons were greatly discounted?

Amitabha-recitation is the unique, foremost and unsurpassed practice [for rebirth in the Land of Bliss] specified in Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. Master Shandao says that it is ‘the principal karma of assurance’, so rebirth is already certain, and rebirth is assured in the present lifetime.

Those who believe and accept the teachings of ‘name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow’, and ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’, must be deeply touched by Amitabha’s boundless compassion, so as to revere him.
Moreover, we feel this teaching is very splendid and rare, and deeply think that we may take a thousand lives and ten thousand eons to encounter it.
At the same time, we may understand why Shakyamuni Buddha extols Amitabha-reciters and likens them to Pundarikas (white lotus flowers). It is because an ordinary being can be assured of rebirth in the present lifetime by the sole practice of name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow. He will be received by Amitabha near his end-of-life, and be directly reborn in the reward land. The causal conditions that lead us to learn about this teaching are truly auspicious and precious.

No matter how we explain the Pure Land teachings, we cannot abandon the doctrines of Amitabha’s deliverance and Amitabha-recitation in accord with his Fundamental Vow. We have to explain it with this core teaching and within the scope of these guiding principles. So, whenever we hear these doctrines, we can perceive them anew, they are new forever! Don’t think we have heard them before, learned them or understand them already.
We should enjoy hearing them very much! Why? Because they are the source and origin of our teaching, rooted in the life of Amitabha, and also the spiritual life of all Amitabha-reciters.

All Buddhist teachings are generalized into eight schools in [Mahayana] Buddhism. Not only Pure Land Buddhism is known as a sudden and round teaching; but, the Tantric, Chan, Tientai ,and Huayen schools claim they are sudden and round teachings too. However, the most sudden among all and the most round among all is the teaching of Amitabha-recitation in the Pure Land School. Why?
It is because we can achieve the state of non-retrogression in this lifetime by mere recitation of Amitabha’s name. As soon as the breath ends in our life, we will be immediately liberated from reincarnation within the Three Domains and the Six Realms, and be reborn in the Land of Bliss. At that point we will suddenly become bodhisattvas of the tenth ground and expedite in achieving Buddhahood.
Though the Tantric, Chan, Tientai, and Huayen schools claim to be sudden and round teachings, practitioners will take many lifetimes to practice and realize before they can be liberated from reincarnation within the Three Domains and the Six Realms. It is difficult to complete all these goals perfectly and completely in one lifetime.

Pure Land teaching is a teaching from effect towards cause, not from cause towards effect. ‘From cause to effect’ means: ordinary beings cultivate progressively from the Ten Faiths, the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Merit-Transferences, the Ten Grounds and lastly to become Buddhas. It ascends step by step, stage by stage.
However, in Pure Land Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha dedicates his fruition of enlightenment as the cause of rebirth of sentient beings. It means Amitabha Buddha dedicates his merits and virtues [of enlightenment] to us, so that it becomes our ‘credentials’, necessary for rebirth and gaining Buddhahood. So, we don’t need to undergo the processes of the Ten Faiths, the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Merit-Transferences and the Ten Grounds through these meritorious practices. We can attain direct rebirth and attain Buddhahood transcending all different levels and stages.

Now, those who aspire to be reborn in the Land of Peace and Joy are ordinary beings with shallow virtuous roots. Once reborn, they reach the state of ‘Buddha in one more lifetime’. This transcends all general bodhisattva practices; so, it is said to be ‘transcending normal procedures or disciplines.’

Referring to our rebirth in the Land of Bliss, or the expedition of gaining Buddhahood after our rebirth, or even our appearance in the bodhisattva body to practice the universally worthy virtues, all of these magnificent spiritual attainments are powered by Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, not by our effort, not even a bit.

For our rebirth, achievement of Buddhahood and deliverance of sentient beings, we can entirely rely on Amitabha Buddha’s vow power. This is feasible because Amitabha has fulfilled these three vows (the 11th, 18th and 22nd Vow) as the causal conditions that enable all those who recite his name (the cause) to attain rebirth, gain Buddhahood, and deliver sentient beings (the effect).
If we understand that, by reciting Amitabha’s name, sentient beings are assured of rebirth, we can get the key in gaining Buddhahood. As it is the core and the essence of Buddhist teachings, we find we have everything readily and sufficiently available in the teachings of Pure Land Buddhism.

The Land of Bliss is a pure land where all inhabitants cannot fail to reach nirvana. In other words, whoever is born there will naturally enter the realm of nirvana. It is stated in [Amitabha’s] 11th Vow - realization of nirvana. Moreover, it does not need to take a very long time to go through all of the different stages of bodhisattva practices to attain full realization. As stated in Amitabha’s 22nd Vow, all beings who are reborn in his Pure Land will be able transcend the normal Bodhisattva stages and achieve Buddhahood.
We simply exclusively recite Amitabha’s name in accord with the 18th Vow and we can be reborn in his Pure Land with recourse to the Buddha’s vow power. It is indeed an Easy Path!

In the 22nd Vow, it is said in the beginning: ”If bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of other quarters who visit my land should not ultimately and unfailingly reach the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.” It reveals that once reborn, every inhabitant will become an Equally Enlightened Bodhisattva, the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life. (Not just the Eighth Stage, the Ninth Stage or the Tenth Stage. )
[For the teachings in the Sagely Path], it is said that all bodhisattvas will ultimately and unfailingly attain Buddhahood; but, that process can take one, two, or three kalpas (eons of time). They must work through all 10 bodhisattva stages.
However, taking the 22nd Vow as evidence, we know that it transcends the course of the ordinary practices of the bodhisattvas to reach the ultimate stage, not like the gradual ascendancy in stages as said in the Sagely Path.
We attain this stage [after rebirth] rapidly because of the inconceivable an awesome power of Amitabha Buddha.

Regardless of being a good or evil ordinary being, if you wish to be reborn, you must rely on Amitabha’s great vow, great karma, and great power as the augmentative cause.
‘Great vow’ means Amitabha’s 48 vows, and ‘great karma’ means accumulated merits through Amitabha’s virtuous practices in countless eons. And, Amitabha’s karma is, of course, pure. As said in the Ksitigarbha Sutra, “whatever we ordinary beings think in our minds creates karma, and offenses too.” All our thoughts are impure.
One can achieve Buddhahood if one’s great vows and great karma are complete and perfect. When Buddhahood is achieved, one will have Buddha’s power, which is capable of delivering sentient beings. If we have vows only but no karmic practice, our vows are empty. If our practices are not complete and not perfect, our power is limited. When it is said to be ‘great vow karma power,’ it means Amitabha’s vow and practices are fully accomplished, and his awesome power is inconceivable.
His inconceivably awesome power is our augmentative cause of rebirth in the Land of Bliss. Being the augmentative cause, it means a supremely powerful and dominant condition that enables a perfect effect. As an augmentative cause, [rebirth] is guaranteed, without any uncertainty, one hundred percent assured. With this augmentative cause, we must be reborn and become a Buddha.

Amitabha’s vow power is absolute. It enables us to reach the destination, and certainly achieve the sagely fruition. It also enables us absolutely to be reborn in the Land of Bliss and to position in the Stage of Non-Retrogression (Avinivartaniya), and the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life, and to be a Buddha. Thus, it is known as ‘powerful condition’. If it [the vow power,] is not [absolute], it is not a powerful condition.

In the secular world, though ordinary beings speak of the Four Great Vows, they are not capable of fulfilling them even if they wish. Technically speaking, they can truly fulfill these vows only after they are reborn in the Land of Bliss. It is because they are equipped with the armor fortified by Amitabha Buddha after they are reborn in the Land of Bliss.

Water can reach the bottom of a deep valley when it falls down from the high mountain. The foremost teaching can deliver the most iniquitous person. So, the Pure Land teaching is the easiest in practice, but its benefit is unsurpassed nirvana.

Amitabha-recitation has the functional capacity of easiness and splendour in the Pure Land teachings. It means reciting the six-character name ‘Namo Amituofo’ is easy and secured in practice; but, is splendid and expedient in attaining merit and virtues.
It is because it is simple and not complicated, as there is no need to study profound and complicated doctrines. It is easy and not difficult, as there is no need to uphold the difficult practices.
Anybody can do it without any pre-qualification, restriction, or condition. There is no constraint in terms of time and place. It can be done under any circumstance. What we need is our mouth to recite in any language you want. It doesn’t matter in terms of accuracy or perfection in pronunciation.

There are eight schools in Buddhist teachings. As far as the sudden (immediate) teaching and the round (complete and perfect) teaching is concerned, it is not just the Pure Land School; but, other schools like Tantric, Chan (Zen), Tientai, and Huayen also claim to be sudden and round teachings. However, only the Pure Land School, with the teaching of Amitabha-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, is the most immediate one among all immediate teachings, and the most complete among all complete teachings. Why?
It is because [the practitioner] can reach the stage of ‘Avaivartika’ (non-retrogression, i.e. never falling back, but proceeding straight to nirvana) in this lifetime, by the sole practice of Amitabha-recitation. At the last breath, one will immediately leave reincarnation within the Three Domains and the Six Realms, and be reborn in the Land of Bliss. This means immediately transcending the ten stages of bodhisattvas, and expediting the achievement of Buddhahood.

The 21st Vow in the Infinite Life Sutra states: all beings are endowed with the thirty-two physical forms and eighty kinds of characteristics. Thirty-two physical forms and eighty kinds of characteristics are used to describe the Buddha’s appearance. That means we have the same appearance as the Buddha when we are reborn in the Land of Bliss. As the physical appearance and form are the same, the mind will also be the same.
The Adornment Sutra says, “Golden body is like the Buddha, splendid forms are perfect and complete; mind is in great compassion, benefitting various kinds of sentient beings.” The external splendid forms of body, the internal great kindness and compassionate mind, and the capacity to deliver sentient beings are the same as the Buddha.

The 11th Vow states:” If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the Definitely Assured State and unfailingly reach Nirvana, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.” What kind of reward will we get after rebirth with recourse to [Amitabha’s] Fundamental Vow? Bodhisattva Nagarjuna explains: Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow is as follows: If anyone invokes me (recites my name, and takes refuge in me,) he will instantly enter the state of assurance [non-retrogression], and subsequently attain perfect enlightenment. Arriving there, we naturally enter the state of assurance [non-retrogression], and nirvana. The state of assurance means non-retrogression in our journey towards perfect enlightenment. Bodhisattva Nagarjuna skilfully summarizes the core teaching of the 18th Vow in the Infinite Life Sutra, and the paragraph on the lowest level in the low tier in the Contemplation Sutra, and the essence of the Amitabha Sutra all together in just a few sentences.

We now believe and know that reciting Amitabha’s name means assured rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land resorting to Amitabha’s vow power. It is also the meaning of “Amitabha-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, and rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards”. Once believed in, this faith is forever, lasts for the whole life, and is never in doubt again.

Because Amitabha’s vow is not just empty talk, we say that by practicing Amitabha-recitation, we are assured of rebirth, all of us can be reborn, and it is easy to attain rebirth. This is stated entirely not from the standpoint of sentient beings; but, entirely on the side of Amitabha Buddha. Rebirth through Amitabha-recitation is, therefore, applicable to all kinds of people without regard to whether they are ordinary or sagely beings, good or bad. None of them fail to be reborn.

The power of deliverance of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow is shared equally with all sentient beings, including: human beings, celestial beings, kind people, evil people, and even those who have committed serious offences such as: the Five Gravest Transgressions, Ten Unwholesome Acts, slandering dharma teachings, and also those with no virtuous root (icchantika). As long as they reproach themselves, repent and confess, exclusively recite Amitabha’s name, and aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, they will not be excluded from Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow of deliverance. Their karmic offenses are extinguished and their rebirth is assured. Once reborn in the Land of Bliss, all are equal because they are as one entity with Amitabha. They are all conferred infinite life span and immeasurable virtuous light, and all realize the unconditioned dharma body. All kinds of ignorance and afflictions naturally become extinct, and the three understandings and the six paranormal powers are attained instantly.

Amitabha Buddha would not have become enlightened if he had not fulfilled his Fundamental Vow to deliver all sentient beings to the Land of Bliss. This includes: sages, ordinary beings, good people, evil people, even those beings amidst severe sufferings in Avici Hell, and those beings with extremely heavy karma in other hells. Moreover, those reborn in the Land of Bliss are in the state of non-retrogression (Avinivartaniya in Sanskrit) and become Buddhas within one more lifetime. If there were one single sentient being that could not be delivered, Amitabha Buddha would not be qualified for his Buddhahood.
So, he must not discriminate against anyone based on criteria such as: whether the one to be delivered is intimate or distant, a friend or an enemy, good or evil, benevolent or slow-witted. He neither takes into account the minds of the three periods of time (past, present, and future) nor the four marks (ego, human beings, sentient beings, and living beings). Amitabha Buddha is obliged to deliver all equally and unconditionally.

Master Yinguang has a short dharma discourse about the superiority of this teaching. He said, “For a person who can deeply believe in this teaching, his “seed-nature” exceeds that of the Two Vehicles, even though he is still entangled [by karmic afflictions]. It is just like a newborn prince, his nobility status exceeds all the courtiers.
It means that, if one believes deeply and firmly in Amitabha’s deliverance, his “seed-nature” will exceed that of the Two Vehicles (Sravaka and Prateyakabuddha). Although he has afflictions, false thoughts, and habitual behaviour, his status and identity exceed that of Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. It is similar to a newborn prince who cannot walk and run, has no knowledge and virtues, has yet to build his career and merits, and has made no contribution to the country. Nevertheless, as an heir of the crown, he has the second highest status and is destined to rule the entire country when the time comes.

All sentient beings should recite Amitabha’s name without any doubt, without cessation, without involving other Buddhas or mixing with practices. By doing so, we abide by Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow for attainment of assured rebirth in the present lifetime, in addition to the state of non-retrogression. Thus, we truly become “Amitabha-reciters”.
We are no longer ordinary beings in the Saha Land; but, already sagely beings in the Land of Bliss. We are embraced by Amitabha’s light forever. We will be directly reborn in Amitabha’s reward land, and will achieve Buddhahood rapidly.
We are reborn without relying on merit-dedication of myriad practices, and achieve Buddhahood without undergoing various grades and levels. This is amazingly wonderful and beyond our imagination!

In terms of compatibility with the Dharma, Amitabha-recitation is the teaching that complies with Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. Its merit is certainly splendid. None of the other teachings comply with the Fundamental Vow. In terms of compatibility with a reciter’s aptitude, Amitabha-recitation is a simple and easy way for any ordinary being, good and evil, to accomplish. All other teachings are not simple and easy; thus, ordinary beings cannot accomplish them.
The practice of Amitabha-recitation possesses the two kinds of virtue - splendour and easiness, the two kinds of benefits—one for the present life and the other for the future life, and also merits and virtues of the Five Kinds of Augmentative Causes. For these reasons, all practitioners of the Five Vehicles can be reborn together in Amitabha’s reward land.

The ultimate kindness and compassion in Pure Land teaching is: for any sentient being who transfers all his merits to the practice of Amitabha-recitation, none of them fails to be delivered. They should have been destined to fall into hells; but, now are assured of rebirth in the Land of Bliss.
Even those who have fallen into hells can be reborn in the Land of Bliss. Who else cannot be reborn? All sentient beings can be reborn without any exception.

Amitabha Buddha’s power is inconceivable. Just reciting his Name once or many times, we can be reborn in the Land of Bliss without any obstruction. It is because a person will follow the functional capacity of the Name, and be reborn in the Land of Bliss, provided that he has no attachment. “It rejects nobody, but naturally and unfailingly attracts beings”, as said in the Infinite Life Sutra.

In the human world, there is a great difference between the Ten Wholesome Acts and the Ten Unwholesome Acts in terms of blessings and offenses. For those in the Three Sagely Realms and the Six Ordinary Realms, we can also differentiate them with respect to emancipation from reincarnation.
Nevertheless, assured rebirth with recourse to Amitabha’s vow power, none of those differences are to be considered. Those in the Five Vehicles can be equally reborn together in the Land of Bliss.
Regardless of their good or evil, all sagely and ordinary beings can recite Amitabha’s name. Thus, all are reborn in the same reward land with recourse to the same Buddha’s vow. They achieve the same Buddhahood because they share the same cause and effect.

The Song Dynasty (960-1279) comes after the Tang Dynasty (618-907). At the time of Northern Song (960-1127), most patriarchs in the Tientai School, such as Master Zhili and Master Ciyun, interpreted the Pure Land School with the teachings of the Tientai School. For that reason there is a big gap, and it is totally different from the interpretation by Master Shandao. They used the concept of ‘self-power’ and meditative practices to interpret the Pure Land school’s teaching of ‘other-power’.
Master Shandao follows the lineage of Master Tanluan and Master Daochuo, who continued the tradition of Nagarjuna Bodhisattva and Vasubandhu Bodhisattva. Both bodhisattvas were the most respected and authoritative great masters in India at their time; so, their interpretations must be most in agreement with the Buddha’s mind and intention.
Unfortunately, after the Northern Song period, the basic ability (aptitude) of sentient beings was declining. Lacking wisdom, they could not understand the teachings of the Pristine Pure Land School. Lacking blessed virtues and opportunity, they also could not have access to the pristine scriptures written by the patriarchs of the same lineage. As a result, the teachings were lost in China.
In a sense, we are lucky to be born at the right time and in the right place, where we can read the pristine and original writings of Master Shandao. Our blessings are even greater than those patriarchs and Amitabha-reciters after the Song Dynasty. It is because we have the great causal conditions to have access to these rare teachings on rebirth, while they had no chance to come across it.
Because we have the chance to study this teaching, we can bring forward the two tenets: “name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow”, and “rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards”. Those who are interested in studying the history of Buddhist teachings can easily find out that no one has brought forward the ideas of “name-recitation in accord with the Fundamental Vow, and rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards”.
Even at present, if a person has not learned our school’s teaching, he will not think of or see these two tenets. For that reason he may criticize our teaching due to misinterpretation. It is a pity and a deep regret.

Provided that we exclusively recite Amitabha’s name and do not mix it with any miscellaneous practices in cultivation, our lotus flower in the Pure Land must be widely opened, and our body in that platform must be bright. We are no longer ordinary beings in the Saha World; but, belong to the sacred group in the Land of Bliss. Soon after we finish our life in the Saha World, we will be instantly born in the West.
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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