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 Rebirth of Ordinary Beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards

Amitabha’s Reward Land is open to all ordinary beings, as it is established for them. Master Shandao set up a question and answer to explain the meaning of ‘Rebirth of Ordinary Beings in Amitabha’s Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards’
Question: This Buddha and his Land is said to be a Realm of Reward. The Reward Land is so profound and wonderful that Theravada practitioners will have difficulty reaching it. How can ordinary people with the karmic obstructions in defilements enter (Buddha’s land)?
Answer: Taking into account the karmic obstructions in defilements, it is really difficult for ordinary beings to clinch on [the Reward Land]. It is because of the Buddha’s vow [power] as a strong causal condition that all beings in the Five Vehicles can enter [the Reward Land] together.”
Amitabha-recitation is the cause, and the Buddha’s vow is the condition. When the cause and condition comes together in harmony, all beings in the Five Vehicles can enter the Reward Land together. This set of Q and A is simple and clear, concise and precise, like the illumination of sunlight and moonlight in the sky. It is clear to understand without ambiguity

Regardless of good and evil, all sentient beings will attain rebirth in the supreme and wonderful pure land, the unconditioned realm of nirvana, with recourse to the power of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. And, they will achieve the highest fruition of infinite life and light, that is the same as that of Amitabha. The Fundamental Vow is the king of all 48 vows of Amitabha Buddha as stated in the Larger Sutra, which is the objective of the 18th vow. It is just like water going back to the ocean, or the moon setting down without leaving the sky. Leaving afar from the great sea of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, sentient beings in the ten directions will have nowhere for settlement.

Master Tanluan says, “All aspirants can be ordinarily divided into three by three levels, however, those reborn have no difference in level now. It is just like water from River Zi and River Min has the same taste. Is it inconceivable?”
In Saha World, aspirants are classified in nine levels (three by three), extending to 81 levels, and to infinite levels. Nevertheless, when they are born in the Land of Bliss, they have no difference in one or two levels, or first stage, second stage, third stage….
From the point of view of ordinary beings, we are full when we eat on an individual basis, same as dealing with the matter of birth and death. Good person will be reborn in a good place, and evil one in a wretched path, so there should be difference in high and low levels, how can it be the same. It is stemmed from the inconceivable power of Amitabha’s name, which cannot be guessed and detected by the wisdom of ordinary beings like us.
Comparing Master Shandao who was a remarkable monk in the prosperous Tang Dynasty and Master Huijing who was an ordinary being with inferior qualities, we are the same when both of us are reborn in the Land of Bliss, no more for Master Shandao and no less for Master Huijing and other people.

Amitabha’s Pure Land is a wonderful and supreme reward land, and all good and evil ordinary beings can be reborn with the main cause: with recourse to other-power incurred / generated from Buddha’s vow, not to self-power from ordinary being. With respect to the Five Vehicles, there are differences between ordinary beings and sages, good and evil in morality. For a thousand of different causes, there are ten thousand different effects (many effects due to many causes). Nevertheless, if the Five Vehicles discard the self-power, but rely on Buddha’s power (one single cause). They will be reborn in the reward land together, and attain the dharma body together (one single effect). For sentient beings in the ten directions, there are bodhisattvas in equal enlightenment and also beings who commit five transgression and slander dharmas. They have their own individual karmic retributions that are totally different with each other. However, if they follow and rely on Amitabha’s vow power, there has no difference in status, as they are equally reborn in the reward land, and equally attain the ultimate fruition of enlightenment in infinite light and life.

Those who are born in the Land of Bliss have the same karma of assurance – Amitabha-recitation. Since their karmic cause is the same, their karmic effect / retribution must be the same, thus there is no difference in grade, whether it is at high or low level.

The 18th Vow is the combined single entity of [beings of different] aptitude and [Amitabha’s] teaching. At the same time, this Name incorporates the body substance [of Amitabha]. Furthermore, the circumstantial environment and direct reward [the living beings] in the Land of Bliss are also incorporated [in one entity]. Therefore, when we recite Amitabha’s name, we will encounter the body substance of Amitabha. It is the cause with respective effect, so we will certainly enter Amitabha’s Pure Land.

The direct reward after the achievement of Amitabha Buddha is actually the body of Amitabha Buddha. It also refers to his infinite light and life. Infinite light and life represents all meritorious virtues and the vow power, that Amitabha Buddha delivers sentient beings, are infinite and inconceivable.
The circumstantial reward is the Land of Bliss that Amitabha Buddha builds for us. It is the wonderful realm of the Foremost Truth that is purely adorned.

Amitabha Buddha is a reward body who recompenses in his casual vows. The pure Land of Bliss is a reward land, which is the results of his casual vows. Assured rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land through exclusive Amitabha-recitation is governed under the principle of cause and effect of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. An effect comes such a respective cause.

The spectrum [of living beings]that covers all good and evil sentient beings is wide. In this world, we are either sagely or ordinary beings. Among ordinary beings, we are either good or evil persons. Amitabha’s teaching is to deliver sentient beings who suffer in the Three Domains and the Six Realms. Sacred beings have already liberated from the Three Domains and the Six Realms, leaving the good and evil ordinary beings in the burning house or sea of suffering. They need to be delivered. So, regardless they are good or evil, no matter they can cultivate or not, they are targets of Amitabha’s deliverance. All are equal.
Moreover, rebirth of the good and evil ordinary beings that we talk about is located in the reward land, not the transformation land, and in the Land of Bliss, and not any other place. Thus, everyone who recites Amitabha’s name in accordance with the Fundamental Vow will be reborn and enter the reward land.

Though good and bad sentient beings are different in nine levels, they become one level only if all of them recite Amitabha’s name in accordance with Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow [for rebirth]. They will be reborn in the Land of Bliss without any difference in level because all of them rely on the same vow power of Amitabha Buddha as the augmentative cause [of rebirth]. So, they have no difference in level here [in this world] and, of course, no difference in class or grade in rebirth [in the Land of Bliss] there. Entering the reward land of Amitabha Buddha, [we dwell in] one single realm in the reward land that has no difference in all aspects.

The Pure Land is actually the reward of Amitabha’s accomplishment of his Fundamental Vow. Whether we are ordinary beings or sages, if we wish enter the Pure Land with our merits and virtues accumulated through our effort in various levels of practices, we must fail.
Then, what should we do? Whether we are sages of the Three Vehicles, or ordinary beings with good and bad karma, all of us can equally get access to the reward land and expedite the achievement of Buddhahood with recourse to Amitabha’s power. It is known as ‘rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards’.

Amitabha’s Pure Land that we mention is a reward land. Whether we are ordinary beings or sages, whoever exclusively recite Amitabha’s name and aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss can enter his reward land. However, in order to enter his reward land, we must exclusively recite Amitabha’s name in accord with the Fundamental Vow [with no other way].

Which vow should we refer: rebirth in the Land of Bliss, by totally reliance on the 18th vow, is direct entry to the unconditioned realm of nirvana? It is the 11th vow. 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.
Amitabha is already a Buddha, thus he has accomplished all his vows. Therefore, subsequent to rebirth in the Land of Bliss, one must attain the benefits of the 11th vow, no difference in stage and level, or class and grade. This teaching is horizontally transcendental, thus needs not go through different stages of the Ten Faiths, the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Merit-Transference, the Ten Grounds. If it has to go through these stages, [rebirth] will be regarded to have classification or grading, thus attainment of benefits of the 11th vow is not regarded to be realized.

If we believe our own aptitude [as ordinary beings] and we believe the teaching [of Amitabha’s vows], we will be assured to attain rebirth in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards. Certainty to attain rebirth in the Pure Land’s realm of rewards means belief in our aptitude [as ordinary beings] and belief in the teaching [of Amitabha’s vows].

In the Saha World, there are ordinary beings of good and evil in aptitude and of sharp and dull in virtuous root. However, all of them are the same in rebirth in the flower of perfect enlightenment [in the Land of Bliss] as they have the same practice – Amitabha-recitation. The [Pure Land] teaching itself serves an augmentative cause that enables ordinary beings of good and evil in aptitude and of sharp and dull in virtuous root to attain rebirth. Therefore, rebirth is not differentiated in one or two, or in three, nine, eight and eleven kinds of forms [of rebirth].

The Land of Bliss is a pure and flawless reward land accomplished by Amitabha Buddha through his vows and cultivation for [delivering] the foolish, iniquitous and vexed ordinary beings. The Land of Bliss is also called the Land of Peace and Joy, or the Land of Peace and Living. It is because the Land of Bliss is a world full of peace, joy and purity, and a world with no afflictions and sufferings, no worry and obstructions, but freedom and comfort. So, it is called the Land of Bliss.

The Land of Bliss is a place where the beings there suffer no pain but only enjoy pleasures of various kinds. ‘Suffer no pain’ means no suffering in reincarnated physical body, and no suffering in ever-changing consciousness. ‘Only enjoy pleasures of various kinds’ means pleasure of human beings, pleasure of heavenly beings, pleasure of Dhyana and also pleasure of Buddhas without defilements. It covers all kinds of pleasures that all Buddhas and bodhisattvas enjoy. So, it is called to be ‘pleasures of various kinds’. Buddhas’ pleasure is nirvana, which is called the Great Pleasure.

The Larger Amitabha Sutra says, “[Amitabha Buddha] is the king of all Buddhas. His light is the noblest among all.”
The infinite Life Sutra says, “His awesome light is foremost in nobility, and all other Buddhas’ light cannot surpass it.” So, Amitabha Buddha is the king of all Buddhas in the ten directions, and is not comparable among all Buddhas in the ten directions.
The Infinite Life Sutra says, “His purity and splendor transcends all the worlds in the ten directions.” Thus, we know that Amitabha’s Pure Land is a reward land, and he is the king of all Buddhas, and his Pure Land surpasses all other pure lands.

In this world, the direct reward is our body, and the circumstantial reward is our environment (where we live). They are independently separated, different and obstructed from each other with no freedom. However, In Amitabha’s realm, the direct reward and the circumstantial reward are interchangeable and unobstructed. They are in one entity. Circumstantial reward is the same as direct reward; direct reward is the same as circumstantial reward. Amitabha’s himself is the same as the realm of the Land of Bliss.

Though there are direct reward and circumstantial reward in the Land of Bliss, they are basically the same - nirvana. When the sentient beings in direct reward realize the state of nirvana, the land they dwell is also in the state of nirvana. In case we are reborn in the Land of Bliss, we realize and enter nirvana at once.
Moreover, as far as nirvana is concerned, it has no beginning and no end. It is ordinary and permanent. It has not undergo any intentional action. The Land of Bliss or the Pure Land of Joy and Peace has beginning but no end, as it is accomplished by Amitabha’s vows in pure mind. It is not formless in stillness, but a land with forms.
Though it is a land with forms, it is permanent without change. And, it is pure, equivalent to unconditioned nirvana. It also possesses the four virtues of nirvana - permanence, bliss, self-independence, purity.
So, Vasubandhu Bodhisattva extols the Land of Bliss, and says, “That Amitayus Buddha’s land is splendid with forms of wonderful realm in the foremost truth.”

Master Shandao says, “The Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana”. It means the land is in the state of nirvana, sentient beings are also in the state of nirvana. So, the direct reward and circumstantial reward, the master and his dependents in the Land of Bliss are in the same state of nirvana.
So, all those reborn there naturally attain [these qualities] and realize [the fruition] without any deliberate karmic practices. If these are the effects of karmic practices, it must take long time in kalpas [to attain and realize]. In this case, this kind of pure land is not the Land of Bliss.

Amitabha Buddha is a Buddha of reward body, with merits and virtues for self-enjoyment and ‘other-enjoyment’. Amitabha’s self-enjoyment becomes the ‘other-enjoyment’ of sentient beings in the Land of Bliss. That means, we enjoy what Amitabha enjoys, with no difference, in the Land of Bliss.

The circumstantial reward and the direct reward, the master and the dependents in the Land of Bliss are in same state of nirvana. It means that the circumstantial reward and the direct reward, the Buddha and the bodhisattvas are equal, same ‘taste’ in the realm of nirvana. They have no difference such as higher or lower. Internally, the realization is in the state of equal and unsurpassed nirvana; externally, the appearance is also in the state of equal and unsurpassed nirvana.

In the Land of Bliss, the landscape being in the state of nirvana and the multitude of sages being in the state of nirvana too. Both the landscape and the sages are equal in one form – undifferentiated realm of nirvana. There has no Theravada, but all bodhisattvas in the state of non-retrogression. They are bodhisattvas in the state of Buddha-to-be (in one more life time). There is no level differentiation or class discrimination, higher or lower, superior or inferior, so it is equal.

In order to correctly interpret the realm in the Land of Bliss, it must follow the teaching of Pure Land Buddhism, and the ideology of Pure Land teaching. If we follow the teachings and the principal sutras of other schools, it is totally wrong because it leads the Pure Land practitioners to difficulty and in despair.
There is only one description, one pure land for Amitabha’s Pure Land. It is interpreted by Master Shandao. What kind of realm is the Land of Bliss? It is a realm of unconditioned nirvana.

What kind of realm is the Land of Bliss? It is Amitabha’s reward land. This reward land is a realm of unsurpassed nirvana, so Master Shandao explained the Land of Bliss to be a realm of unconditioned nirvana. Unconditioned means it is not produced through intentional practices, but is natural, under no condition. If we need to take a certain period of time to cultivate various teachings in order to gain Buddhahood in the Land of Bliss, the Land of Bliss is conditioned, not unconditioned.

What kind of world is the Land of Bliss? There are many descriptions in the Infinite Life Sutra. Master Shandao use 7 words (in Chinese) to concisely describe it in the Praise of Dharma Practices – the Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana.
The Land of Bliss is unconditioned and natural, a realm of non-production and non-extinction. In this realm, there has no delusion in views and delusion in afflictions, like ours. There has no delusion in bodhisattva’s delivering sentient beings, and also delusion in ignorance. There has no discrimination in grades and classes, high or low. It is because, if there has any discrimination, it is not equal in same ‘taste’ with production and extinction. So, it is a realm of Buddhas.
Moreover, [the Land of Bliss] I snot an ordinary Buddha’s realm, because it is realm of Amitabha’s Pure Land. Amitabha Buddha is superior amongst the Buddhas in the ten directions.

The meaning of ‘the Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana’ is: Amitabha’s Pure Land is an unconditioned realm of nirvana. An unconditioned realm of nirvana means: a realm of no greed, hatred, and delusion of ordinary beings, no delusion of view, no delusion of afflictions, no delusion of worldly obstructions, delusion of ignorance, and it transcends the Ten Faiths, the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Prctices, the Ten Merit-transferences, and the Ten Grounds or above.
To enter this realm, we merely recite Amitabha’s name in twofold exclusivity. Just to recite one sentence of ‘Namo Amituofo’, the six-character great name, we can enter the reward land of unconditioned nirvana, the Land of Bliss, according to the law of cause and effect. It shows as the aim and method: the aim is to enter the extremely splendid reward land, and the method is extremely easy one – exclusively reciting Amitabha’s name.

A cause must incur an effect. Amitabha-recitation is the cause and rebirth is the effect. Furthermore, rebirth can lead us to the state of nirvana, a realm of unconditioned nirvana as said by Master Shandao. Unconditioned means enlightenment to enter nirvana upon reaching the realm without further practice in cultivation. If one is required to further practices in cultivation according to his level, aptitude, one will take different periods of time to realize and enter nirvana. If it is so, it is not unconditioned. If it is not unconditioned, it is not a realm of nirvana.

Amitabha is a Buddha who accomplishes his Fundamental Vow and his Land of Bliss, and the power of the Fundamental Vow as an augmentative cause for ordinary beings like us, the Three Vehicles, the Five Vehicles to enter Amitabha’s reward land, the Land of Bliss. Owing to the fact that Amitabha accomplishes his Buddhahood and the Land of Bliss, he has the full capacity to facilitate and enable us to be reborn in the Land of Bliss. It is possible because Amitabha’s [Fundamental] Vow is a dominant condition [of rebirth].

The Land of Bliss is infinite in life, so the body [of inhabitants] is not aging and getting sick. It is said to be ‘the body of the Vajra-god Narayana’ in the [Infinite Life] Sutra. It is an indestructible body like diamond. In our Saha World, there has nothing indestructible. Sentient beings have [transformation in the cycle of] birth, aging, illness and death; matters have [transformation in the cycle of] production and extinction, including Earth, Milky Way Galaxy – formation, development, decaying and emptiness. When we are born in the Land of Bliss, there will have no more impermanent phenomena. That is why we end our suffering and gain happiness only if we are reborn in the Land of Bliss.

Master Shandao says, “’Namo’ means ‘taking Refuge’. It has the meaning of aspiration and dedication as well. “Amitabha’means its practice. Due to these meanings, [the practitioner] will be certainly reborn.
So, this six-character name provides adequate merits necessary for assured rebirth. Moreover, rebirth refers to the entry of reward land.

Reciting the name “Namo Amituofo” is ‘to gain the benefits with sufficient virtues.’ ‘To gain the benefits with sufficient virtues’ is said in the Infinite Life Sutra when the merit and virtues of the 18th Vow is discussed. Shakyamuni Buddha said to Maitreya, “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.”
‘To gain benefit’ means ‘to have gained great benefit’. ‘With sufficient virtues’ means ‘receiving the unsurpassed virtue’. Name-recitation will result in entering Amitabha’s reward land. Regardless of the high or low realm you achieve in name-recitation, all of us will equally enter the reward land.

What is the karmic retribution in the Land of Bliss [after rebirth]? It is nirvana. It is because Amitabha’s Pure Land is a realm of unconditioned nirvana. Similar to the five kinds of paranormal powers of the heavenly beings, it is their karmic retribution to possess these powers without learning and practicing them. Birds are born to fly because it is their karmic retribution in this realm.
Upon arrival in Amitabha’s Pure Land, a realm of unconditioned nirvana, we can quickly realize the state of nirvana without elapsing any period of time or any number of levels and stages.

Relying on Amitabha Buddha’s Fundamental Vow, we will not fall into the Three Wretched Realms, and we can also be reborn in the Land of Bliss, thus liberate from reincarnation within the Six Realms. Not only reborn in the Land of Bliss, we will naturally enter the bodhisattva stage of ‘Becoming Buddha in One More lifetime’.
All these are not with recourse to our own merit and virtues, but to Amitabha [great vow power], which serves as an augmentative cause. So, Master Shandao says, “All good and evil ordinary beings will not attain rebirth [in the Pure Land] without recourse to the karmic power of Amitabha’s Great Vow as an augmentative cause.”
He also says, “The Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana; it’s hard to be reborn there by practicing assorted virtues according to circumstances. The Tathagata selects the key method – he teaches us to recite Amitabha’s name with two-fold exclusivity.”
‘To be reborn’ means attaining rebirth in Amitabha’s reward land, so the fruit attained is the fruit of nirvana.

The Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana. ‘Unconditioned’ is the same as ‘nirvana’, so it is a realm of unconditioned nirvana. It reveals that, in Amitabha’s Pure Land, the direct reward and circumstantial reward, master and companions are the same, and they are in nirvana, a realm with all resplendent forms. That is to say, the circumstantial reward (landscape) and the direct reward (Amitabha Buddha – master and other bodhisattvas – companions in the Land of Bliss are in the state of nirvana - an inconceivable realm [of Buddhas].

The Land of Bliss is a realm of nirvana. The Land of Bliss is a circumstantial reward, and Amitabha Buddha a direct reward. Both the circumstantial reward and the direct reward are yiru (oneness, non-duality) in Buddha’s realm. At the same time, the identity of name and substance is inseparable in Buddha’s realm.
Hence, Amitabha’s name is equal to and same as the Land of Bliss. The unimpeded light of Amitabha’s name is equal to and same as the pure adornments of the Land of Bliss. It enables us, upon arrival, to dwell in the natural and spontaneous state, just next to nirvana. Being ‘natural and spontaneous’ means not taking intentional action or making any deliberate practice, but keeping the innate, or congenital state.

The Land of Bliss is accomplished by Bodhisattva Dharamkara with his own sagely seed nature (Arya-gotra in Sanskrit), which is the vows and the cultivation of high-grade bodhisattva from the eighth to the tenth stage. To make these vows, he takes five kalpas long time to observe in details 21 billion pure lands, chooses the most pure, splendorous, and fine parts of those lands, and then augments it with his own wisdom and vow power—his extraordinary vows. So, his Pure Land transcends all the 21 billion pure lands with respect to purity and splendor. It can be said that, this purity is the purest among all pure lands. By this way, he works out the great plan of 48 vows.
Bodhisattva Dharamkara continues to take countless eons to cultivate and accumulate immeasurable bodhisattva virtues, and finally accomplishes his 48 vows in perfection. Henceforth, he brings about the Land of Bliss, a realm of unconditioned nirvana.
So, the Land of Bliss is of ultimate purity, uncontaminated, unconditioned, flawless, and in fine and splendid adornments. It is the rewarded-land of Amitabha Buddha.
Apart from Amitabha’s self-enjoyment, the rewarded-land is also open to all inhabitants for the same enjoyment. So, unless we are not reborn there, otherwise we can enjoy the same lifespan and light (wisdom) as Amitabha Buddha, attaining the same splendid unsurpassed relam of nirvana.
This realm transcends everything, beyond all kinds of forms because it is formless. So, it cannot be contemplated with ‘conditioned’ minds, cannot be expressed in speech, cannot be conceived, and cannot be differentiated, measured, and analyzed.

Rebirth in the Land of Bliss is similar to that: darkness comes across brightness, then darkness will vanish. It does not matter who we are originally and in what realm we are living. As long as we are reborn in the Land of Bliss, we are in the same status as the ‘bodhisattva of the tenth ground.’ It is because the Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana.

It is entirely because of Amitabha’s inconceivable and awesome merit and virtues so that ordinary beings can be reborn in the reward land. Even Manjusri and Samantabhadra cannot conceive this kind of awesome merit and virtues, just like what the Infinite Life Sutra writes: people of the Two Vehicles cannot guess, only buddhas understand thoroughly.

If we take recitation of the great Name with a myriad of virtues as the cause, and Amitabha’s vows as the augmentative condition for rebirth in the Land of Bliss —where the cause and the condition come together in harmonization, we will be100% certain reborn in the Land of Bliss.
Rebirth in the Land of Bliss will certainly enter the realm of nirvana because the Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana. Once entering the state of nirvana, we will naturally possess the six paranormal powers—all the paranormal powers that arhats have and thousands of dharani are manifested and possessed immediately, just like birds are born to fly, or celestial beings are born to possess the five kinds of paranormal powers without learning and practice.

The Land of Bliss is a reward land. It is so-called ‘reward land’ as it is not artificially built, no production nor extinction, permanent in its nature, not extinguished, not differentiation in level or class. In order to enter this realm, we merely exclusively recite Amitabha, with no mixed practice and not interrupted with other practices. It is alright to invoke Amitabha pristinely. Any other practice is not applicable. If it is mixed with Amitabha-recitation, the practice will be regarded as miscellaneous practice in accord with circumstance. Thus, it is almost impossible to be reborn in the Land of Bliss, Amitabha’s reward land.

From the perspective of Amitabha Buddha, all sentient beings of the ten directions are equal. So, he does not set any requirement [for rebirth] because the aptitudes of sentient beings are not the same. Besides, the compassion of Amitabha Buddha is boundless, and he has accomplished all necessary merits and virtues equally for the sentient beings of the ten directions to be reborn in his reward land and to expedite their attainment of Buddhahood. As a result, sentient beings that are classified as high or low in aptitude can equally attain the same reward upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss.

People may doubt: it is fine for virtuous persons to be reborn in the reward land, but how can the sinful ones who have committed evil deeds and have no virtuous practices also attain the same realm as the virtuous ones?
First, they rely on the six-character great name of “Namo Amituofo.”
‘Great’ means ‘vastness’, which includes all practices, all virtues, all merits, countless dharani (mystical incantations), and the twelve divisions of the Tripitaka. All merits and virtues are assembled into this single name. The merits and virtues required to leave the Three Domains and the Six Realms exist in the name; the merits and virtues required to attain Buddhahood also exist in the name. From the state of ordinary being, whoever recites this single name will reach the stage of Buddhahood.
Second, the so-called “virtuousness” and “sinfulness” are in essence not real. Due to the unreal essence, such attributes have no impact on the [six-character great] name. It is just like “brightness” and “darkness” – when brightness appears, darkness will vanish instantly.
“Virtuousness” and “sinfulness” are counted in the context of reincarnation within the Six Realms, which is by itself also illusionary and unreal, no matter referring to the causes or the effects. All kinds of existence are outcomes of the convergence of karmic conditions, which are by itself empty and impermanent, and do not have any eternal substance.

Sentient beings of the ten directions, once reborn in the Land of Bliss, are in the form of perfectly enlightened lotus flower by manifestation. Those born in human embryo are human beings; those born in bird’s egg are birds or poultry; those born in water are water-borne living organisms; and those born in the heaven are celestial beings.
For those born in the Land of Bliss, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu says they are perfectly enlightened lotus flower born in manifestation. As they are Amitabha’s manifested lotus flowers of perfect enlightenment, they must attain perfect enlightenment.

Amitabha’s Pure Land is not a common land for ordinary and sagely beings. Those reborn there are sagely beings, no ordinary beings. It is not a land of paranirvana in expediency. Those reborn there are bodhisattvas, no sravaka and prateyabuddha. Upon arrival, all will enter the realm of nirvana, which is superior to the land adorned with real merits.
The Land of Bliss is a realm of nirvana. When we arrive there, we don’t need to make extra efforts in practice any more, and don’t need to go through the process of moving on from the 1st and 2nd ground [of bodhisattva stages] …to the 9th, 10th ground, and then reaching Equal Enlightenment before accomplishment of Buddhahood. It is just not like that.

The connotation of rebirth is to achieve Buddhahood. It is because the land that we are reborn is the reward one, which is a realm of all buddhas. Thus, rebirth means achievement of Buddhahood. It is no need to undergo the process of nine levels of rebirth inside the lotus bud.

Based on the 18th Vow, we exclusively recite “Namo Amituofo” for assured rebirth. Whatever the cause is, the corresponding effect comes. In accordance with the 18th Vow, our recitation is the cause, and the effect is attainment of rebirth in the ‘reward’ Land of Bliss.
Those practitioners, who practice in accordance with the 18th Vow, will be reborn equally, without any difference in nine levels or grades of rebirth. If there is any level or grade in rebirth, it indicates that he does not follow the 18th Vow in practice, and he relies on other ways to attain rebirth.
Why do we emphasize the 18th Vow and the total reliance with Amitabha Buddha? It is because we want to be reborn in the reward land, same as Amitabha Buddha. So, though we claim we are the same in the Pure Land teachings and in Amitabha-recitation practice, we have to be clear whether we exclusively follow the 18th Vow or not. If we do not strictly follow the 18th Vow [to exclusively recite Amitabha’s name], we are regarded to have miscellaneous practices in cultivation. Under this circumstance, we have to dedicate our merits for rebirth, and attain rebirth in nine levels as well.

Reward land and transformed land are relative. Actually, there is no transformed land in the Land of Bliss. The entire land is a reward land. Then why it can be divided into the reward and the transformed land? It is because some people interpret the Pure Land teachings with terminologies of the Sagely Path teachings.
Although the same terms are used, the connotations are different. If there was a transformed land, it may refer to the “embryo palace” or the “border land” as described in the Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life. However, does the “embryo palace” or the “border land” exist outside the reward land? No. They are also located in the reward land. For those who recite Amitabha’s name in accordance with the Fundamental Vow, the flowers will blossom and they can see the Buddha upon arrival at the Land of Bliss. However, there is another kind of sentient beings who stays at the bud and cannot see the Buddha right the way. Who are they?
According to the Infinite Life Sutra, they are also Buddhist practitioners, who also deeply believe in the Law of Cause of Effect in the three periods of time, good and evil retribution and reincarnation within the Six Realms. They also perform good deeds and refrain from doing evil deeds, accumulate merits and virtues (through various practices) and aspire to be reborn in the Land of Bliss. However, they doubt of the wisdom of Amitabha Buddha.
Though they can be reborn, they must stay inside the bud after rebirth without blossoming, and they cannot see the Buddha, not hearing teachings, not making offerings [to other buddhas]. It is sometimes called ‘transformed land’, also known as the ‘border land’. We can read the passage of ‘rebirth in embryo and by manifestation’ for detailed explanation.

In the Land of Bliss, there is only kind of land—the reward-land. All nine levels of rebirth take place inside the plant embryos (or buds), and where are those buds? They are in the reward-land too, although its form is buds.
What happens inside the buds? They are yet to bloom, and hence cannot see the Buddha, cannot listen to the teachings, and cannot make offerings to buddhas. These are the differences. If they blossom out, they can also see the Buddha, listen to the teachings, and make offerings to buddhas.
How long will it take to bloom? It is said 500 years in the Infinite Life Sutra. In the Contemplation Sutra, it is said one night for rebirth at medium level of the high tier; one day and night for rebirth at lowest level of the high tier; seven days for rebirth at medium level of the middle tier; and seven days for rebirth at lowest level of the middle tier; 49 days for rebirth at the highest level of the low tier.
Anyhow, the number of “500 years” given in the Infinite Life Sutra, and the varied time specified for each of the nine levels carry the same meaning. Although there is a temporal number, it is not fixed. Once the reborn-beings regret and repent on his doubt of the Buddha’s wisdom, the flowers will bloom immediately.

The ‘nine levels’ in the Contemplation Sutra and the ‘three tiers’ in the Great Sutra are the same in essence, but different in presentation. Both of them are talking about rebirth through dedication of the self-powered manifold practices of various virtues, and the results of both practices are reborn in the manifested land. For practitioners of the nine levels, their waiting periods for seeing the Buddha are different in accordance with their status while the other says the period of staying at the “embryo palace” is 500 years. Both are simply a general expression of time length, not a fixed time period.
Even the nine levels are broad classification, it could be expanded to infinity because reborn beings will live in places of different sizes and qualities and will see the Buddha of different sizes and qualities, in accordance with their karmic causes of different magnitude and quality. If the quantity is finite and the forms are specific, that will be different from the reward land where forms have no-form, no-form is their forms, and they are inter-penetrating without any obstruction.
There is an argument on whether they live in the same place or different places. Although most of the masters endorsed since antiquity the idea of “living in the same place”, they differed on the meanings: “in the same place but different nature” vs. “in the same place but different views”.
The ‘nine levels’ mentioned in the Contemplation Sutra and the ‘three tiers’ mentioned in the Great Sutra is the same in meaning, but presenting in different ways. Both of them are related to rebirth through dedication of the self-powered manifold practices of various virtues, and the practitioners are reborn in the ‘manifested land’ [it is not blossomed yet]. There are different periods of time in seeing the Buddha in nine levels while they stay at the ‘embryo palace’ for 500 years. However, it simply express the differences in time and they are not fixed.
Though it is divided in nine great levels, it can be expanded to infinity because beings will live in the places with different sizes and qualities, and will see the Buddha of different heights and qualities, according to their karmic causes of different magnitude and quality. They are different because they are finite in quantity and specific in forms. So, they are different from the reward land where a form has no-form, no-form is its form, and they are inter-penetrating without any obstruction.
It is always argued whether they live in the same place or different places. Most past masters adopted the concept of ‘living in the same place’, and they indicated there were two situations, one is ‘different nature in the same place’ and the other ‘different views in the same place’.
“In the same place but different nature” – they exist at the same time in the same place, but are different in nature. The real reward land is accomplished by Amitabha’s 18th Vow, which is a splendid land accessible from any path without any obstruction. The expedient manifested land is accomplished in accordance with those who attain rebirth through the 19th Vow. As they have different practices with finite quantity and specific in forms, their entry is connected from different paths.
“In the same place but different views”– practitioners of the “manifested land” do not know they are actually in the reward land, which they think is far away, but in fact nearby. As they see two images of the same form, they think there are two lands. This is due to their karmic circumstances.
For those who are reborn entirely with recourse to the Buddha’s vow power, there is no difference in terms of level of rebirth. All are the same, without any difference, living in the Land of Infinite Light (i.e. the Land of Bliss).
‘Different nature in the same place’ – they exist at the same time in the same place, but are different in nature. The real reward land is accomplished by Amitabha’s 18th Vow, a splendid land that can be entered in any way without any obstruction. The expedient ‘manifested land’ is accomplished in accordance with those who attain rebirth through the 19th Vow. As they have different practices with finite quantity and specific in forms, their rebirth is also different.
‘Different views in the same place’ – the practitioners in the ‘manifested land’ do not know they are actually in the reward land. They think it is far, but it is near. They have two images with one form, so they think there are two lands, responded in accordance with their karmic circumstances.
For those reborn with recourse to the entire Buddha’s power, they have no difference in level of rebirth. It is same, without difference, in the land of infinite light.

Regardless of whether a person is kind or evil, smart or stupid, Amitabha Buddha delivers them equally. However, only when the person is fully aware that he is an iniquitous person and under a dead-end situation, he will earnestly and thoroughly take refuge in Amitabha’s deliverance. If this person does not confess that he is an iniquitous person, thinks that he is still able to cultivate, able to understand the profound teaching, and able to see the True Mind and Nature as well as to realize the fruition, he will unlikely rely on Amitabha’s deliverance thoroughly, and unlikely recite Amitabha’s name persistently. He will continue to accumulate meritorious virtues through practices with his talent and capacity, and then dedicate them for rebirth.
Can such a person be reborn in a reward land? Rebirth in the Land of Bliss is, in fact, taken place in the reward land. It is only due to the dedication through self-power that makes rebirth to begin inside the lotus bud, and that the waiting time for seeing the Buddha varies. However, those who follow the 18th Vow to attain rebirth are directly reborn in the reward land, without any issue concerning the time about blossoming. Those who do not follow the 18th Vow to attain rebirth have to wait for a varied time inside the bud until it breaks out into blossom.
How long will it take to blossom? According to the Infinite Life Sutra, it is “five hundred years”. In the Contemplation Sutra, it is one night for rebirth at the middle level of the high tier, and one day and one night for rebirth at the lowest level of the high tier; seven days for rebirth at the middle level of the middle tier, and also seven days for rebirth at the lowest level of the middle tier; seven weeks for rebirth at the highest level of the low tier.
To conclude, it is a fixed number of 500 years as the Infinite Life Sutra says, but thetime periods are varied in the nine-level hierarchy as the Contemplation Sutra described. Nevertheless, the meanings are the same. Even though temporal numbers exist, they are not fixed. As soon as the person recognizes and repents for his fault of unbelieving the Buddha’s wisdom, his lotus flower will ‘blossom’ immediately.

Regarding the discussion whether the Pure Land is a reward land or a transformation land, there are not many scriptures for reference nowadays. In the time of Master Tanluan, there is very few. Master Huiyuan (not the one in East Jin Dynasty) who made some commentaries about the Great Sutra and the Contemplation Sutra regarded the Land of Bliss as a “crude” pureland that ordinary beings could also be reborn there.
Master Zhizhe divided the Land of Bliss into four: “the common land for ordinary and sagely beings”, “the land of paranirvana in expediency”, “the land adorned with real merits”, and “the realm of nirvana light”. According to his opinion, ordinary beings live in “the common land for ordinary and sagely beings”, which is a lower ranking realm. The junior bodhisattvas are reborn in “the land of paranirvana in expediency”, while the senior bodhisattvas are reborn in “the land adorned with real merits”. Amitabha Buddha is a Buddha, so he lives in “the realm of nirvana light”.
The Four-Shastra Sect considered that: the Land of Bliss is a reward land, not a transformation land. As the reward land only accommodates the senior bodhisattvas, so those in the Two Vehicles and the ordinary beings cannot be reborn there.
Master Jiaxiang and Master Yuanxiao believed that the Land of Bliss consists of the reward land and the transformation land. The sagely beings were reborn in the reward land, and the ordinary beings in the transformation land.
So, each great master has different opinions in defining the levels of the Land of Bliss, and their benchmarks for rebirth are also different. Nevertheless, they reach a consensus on one matter: ordinary beings cannot be reborn in the reward land.
Master Tanluan, Master Daochuo and Master Shandao, however, had a totally different demarcation. They affirmed that the Land of Bliss is a reward land, not a transformation land. It is NOT a crude pure land. This reward land is catered not only for bodhisattvas, but also those in the Two Vehicles, as well as the ordinary beings. Their demarcation was supported by scriptures of the sutras.
Master Shandao made reference to the sutra that says, “Amitabha Buddha of the Land of Peace and Joy in the West is the reward Buddha and the reward land”. Which sutra did he refer to? He referred to “The Common Nature of Mahayana Sutra”. This is not a word-by-word quotation, but elaboration of its meanings, explaining that the Land of Bliss is a reward land, and Amitabha Buddha is a reward Buddha.
Furthermore, with reference to[Amitabha's]18th Vow stated in the Infinite Life Sutra, Master Shandao verifies that “reward” means the reciprocal fruition acquired through the practices for realization of the vows made in the causal ground. Amitabha Buddha made the 48 great vows in his causal ground, and practices immeasurable and boundless meritorious virtues in countless eons. Hence, the Buddhahood that he achieved must be a reward Buddha, and the land that he formed must be a reward land.
Master Daochuo also made a similar comment in his works “Collection of Peace and Joy”; Master Shandao, however, made it clearer and illustrated it thoroughly with a set of question and answer. On that account, our school affirms that Amitabha Buddha is a reward Buddha, and the Land of Bliss is a reward land. Reward land is also called the 'land of shared enjoyment', on which Amitabha Buddha himself enjoys the dharma bliss, or provides others (bodhisattvas) with his shared dharma bliss.

We need to recite “Namo Amituofo” in order to be reborn in the reward land. After rebirth, we can enjoy Amitabha Buddha’s reward, as described in the Great Sutra, “[They] have lofty and brilliant wisdom, and are masters of the supernatural powers. They are all of one form, without any differences. 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.”
So, for rebirth and becoming a Buddha through Amitabha-recitation, there is no need to undergo the nine-level process [of rebirth].

According to the general bodhisattva teachings, one must break one part of ignorance in order to realize one part of dharma-nature. Because there are 41 parts of ignorance from the stage of first abode to the stage of equal enlightenment, one have to break the ignorance piece by piece, in order to realize dharma-nature in succession. In the teaching of Amitabha’s deliverance, however, sentient beings are allowed to enter the Buddha’s reward land before cutting off all kinds of ignorance.
The Buddha’s reward land that the reborn enter is in the realm of the tenth ground or higher – that is [what Master Yinguang] described as “entering the Buddha’s realm, enjoying the benefits same as the Buddha”. In other words, the reborn has the same mind and same form as the Buddha, his appearance is same as Amitabha’s with infinite forms (appearances with infinite light), and his life is same as Amitabha’s with infinite life (a life with infinite light). Certainly, the wisdom, compassion, and paranormal powers of the mind are not different [from the Buddha’s].

Amitabha’s merit and virtues enable sentient beings to attain the state of ‘nirvana’ without cutting off afflictions. It means, at the moment that we haven’t cut off our afflictions due to greed, anger and delusion, we have possess the qualities of ‘nirvana’. Once we are reborn in the Land of Bliss, we possess the totality of “nirvana’. It also means entering the Buddha’s reward land without breaking off ignorance, and enjoying the same as the Buddha by entering the Buddha’s realm.

Longevity is the most basic desire of ordinary people who wish to have an immortal life, keep staying young, healthy and never get sick, or even better to have wisdom and blessings, wealth and nobility, and enjoyment of various kinds of provisions in abundance. All these desires will be satisfied, once we are reborn in the Land of Bliss.
Why? The Land of Bliss is a world that can fulfill all the wishes. Your lifespan is same as Amitabha’s, which is infinite. All the clothing, foods, and material goods are provided as you wish. It is said: celestial clothes appear instantly in response to our thoughts, and all delicious foods come automatically. All wishes are fulfilled.

Perhaps it is possible for bodhisattvas to be reborn in the Land of Bliss by transcending time span and stages in cultivation, because they have already attained the dharma body by cutting off the delusion of ignorance and realizing the dharma nature. So, when they arrive at the Land of Bliss, they can expedite their cultivation [towards Buddhahood] in this favorable environment. However, [in Pure Land Buddhism,] for ordinary good and evil beings, they can leave the reincarnation within the Three Domains, be reborn in the Land of Bliss and enter the Buddha’s realm sharing same enjoyment without cutting off or subduing the delusion of ignorance, and other kinds of delusions. That is why Amitabha Buddha is inconceivable.
A Buddhist scripture says: The vow that Amitabha Buddha made is “unrivaled in all the worlds”. His vow is so named because it has been accomplished. Moreover, the Land of Bliss is a reward land that beings of the Five Vehicles are all allowed to enter.
Only Amitabha Buddha has made such a vow, and other buddhas in the ten directions have not. That’s why Amitabha’s vow is regarded as unrivaled in all the world.

Shall we continue to cultivate after we are reborn in the Land of Bliss? Is there another order for progressive cultivation? Actually, once we are reborn there, we naturally enter a realm of enlightenment because it is a realm of nirvana, and hence we have nothing to cultivate. That is why Master Shandao said the Land of Bliss is a realm of unconditioned nirvana. In short, the Land of Bliss is a reward land where cultivation and its steps of progress is no longer an issue.

A [bodhisattva] practitioner must take one eon (one great Asaṃkhyeyakalpa) to reach the state of the tenth dedication-transference, and then take another eon to proceed from the first ground to the seventh ground [of bodhisattva]. To continue, he has to take one more eon to reach to the tenth ground [of bodhisattva]. So, it takes “three great Asaṃkhyeyakalpa” in total. This is the process of general practice.
However, achievement of perfect Enlightenment in the Land of Bliss that constructed by Amitabha Buddha is different. It allows us to directly transcend various grounds of the ordinary path, and to practice the virtues of universal worthiness immediately upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss.
Practicing the virtues of universal worthiness means going out to the worlds in ten directions for deliverance of sentient beings. That is to say, upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss, we have directly transcended bodhisattva of the tenth ground and above, and become the bodhisattva of Equal Enlightenment, which is a state of Buddhahood.
Because there is only one Buddha in one world, we are not called buddhas but “bodhisattvas”.

Amitabha Buddha set forth the 48 vows for sentient beings. Each and every vows are set forth for sentient beings of the ten directions. If there is one vow not accomplished, Amitabha Buddha cannot achieve his Buddhahood. Given that Amitabha Buddha has accomplished every single vow, he is now a bona fide Buddha. If we follow what the 48 vows have set forth, we will definitely get the specific result corresponding to that causing vow.
If a person thinks he must practice a certain kind of Dharma teaching, or achieve a certain level or realm in order to enter the Land of Bliss—a splendid reward land, he will not believe in the seeker’s aptitude, nor in Dharma teaching.
A person who deeply believes in aptitude should know from the beginning that he is still an iniquitous sentient being without any condition to leave the cycle of rebirth, no matter how clever and how capable he is. And, a person who deeply believes in [Amitabha’s] teaching should know Amitabha Buddha embraces and receives all sentient beings with his 48 vows, and he has completed the splendid and wonderful reward land, a realm of nirvana, so that sentient beings can enter this reward land with recourse to the Buddha’s vow power by practicing name-recitation in accord with his Fundamental Vow. It is not required to undergo a process of escalated practices for advancement toward rebirth.

In the Buddhist scriptures, especially the Treatise of Rebirth written by Master Tanluan, in particular, do mention that, our six sensual ‘roots’ (organs) will be enlightened when they are get in contact with the respective six circumstantial ‘dusts’ (environment) upon our rebirth in the Land of Bliss.
In other words, when our eyes see the landscape there, our ears hear the sounds there, our nose smells the odours there, our body touches the thing there, we will be totally enlightened. It is similar to Shakyamuni Buddha who was an ordinary being before he was seated on the bodhi altar. However, once he sat on the bodhi altar and watched the morning star, he was fully enlightened instantly with all paranormal powers and thousands of dharani manifested immediately.

Upon arrival at the Land of Bliss, we can expedite the achievement of Buddhahood, because our concept of time doesn’t exist in the Land of Bliss. It is similar to the remark Master Shandao made: “All past karma, numerous as motes of dusts, will extinct once enlightenment is achieved. Without being noticed, we enter the gate of True Suchness. The time span, long as countless eons, will be shortened as a flash of light.” Great or small kalpas, or countless eons, are just equivalent to one moment, as short as a snap of the fingers.

If cultivating with one’s own power in the Land of Saha, one has to cut away and get rid of the delusion of view, and then the delusion of volition (affliction); after that, to break the delusion of worldly obstruction, and to eliminate the fundamental ignorance—working all the way through until the 41 grades of ignorance are removed, whence one can enter the state of wonderful enlightenment from equal enlightenment.
In the Land of Bliss, however, that [process] is unnecessary. In the Commentary on the Treatise of Rebirth, Master Tanluan uses the word “expediency” to describe the situation. In the Land of Saha, “expediency” refers to a gradual growth inch by inch. However, there is another kind of “expediency” that can grow a hundred feet in a day—Master Tanluan uses this analogy to describe what happens in the Land of Bliss.

The Land of Bliss is an unconditioned realm of nirvana. Can we become a Buddha in the Land of Bliss? Yes, we can! Nirvana means no-birth and no-death, no past, present, and future in time, no various deliberate actions and functions. So, upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss, we naturally become buddhas without elapsing any time span, or practicing to proceed from one stage to the other, so it is not necessary to attain Buddhahood gradually. If that is the way, it is not the authentic Land of Bliss.

Master Ouyi says, “The six-character great name is a dharma realm of reality, which can by nature transcend laterally [to enable rebirth] without using any other expedient means.” It means the six-character name is a real dharma realm of oneness containing all merits and virtues. By relying solely on this six-character name, without using any other expedient means, we can be reborn in the manner of lateral transcendence.
It is not necessary to go through the first stage, second stage, third stage, fourth stage… and the tenth stage (known as the vertical transcendence). With the great name, ordinary beings are able to cross [those stages] straightaway into the stage of equal enlightenment by lateral transcendence. This process is then described as “transcend laterally without using any other expedient means”. So, the six-character name is truly the merits and virtues of the dharma realm.

All those reborn in the Land of Bliss are the Buddhas in one more lifetime, not two, not three, or a hundred, a thousand lifetimes. It is because, once reborn in the Land of Bliss, one will be far apart from reincarnation within the Six Realms, leave the two kinds of birth and death, and immediately attain an infinite lifespan, no birth and no death.

The doubt in the Buddha’s wisdom is spoken on the side of ordinary beings, who have discriminative mind that differentiate, evaluate…etc. Arhats or above have relatively less in this kind of thinking. So, the target audiences of Amitabha’s vows are mainly ordinary beings.
Almost all of the 48 vows mentioned in the Infinite Life Sutra are addressed in particular to sentient beings in the worlds of other directions. For instance, in the 22nd Vow, it is spoken for a multitude of bodhisattvas in the lands of other worlds. In the first glance, we may be astonished: Oh, they are bodhisattvas, and they must be reborn in the Pure Land in the status of bodhisattva.
However, according to the Adornment Sutra, they are not bodhisattvas, but just ordinary beings. That is to say, bodhisattvas and sentient beings live here, but they will become the same when they are reborn in the Land of Bliss.

The titles of sagely and ordinary beings in the Land of Bliss, such as sravakas, bodhisattvas, celestial beings are given merely to match our line of thinking. In fact, there are no differentiation between sravakas, bodhisattvas, and celestial beings. All living beings there are same as Amitabha Buddha. So, the sutras says, “Their appearance is superb, unmatched by any being, heavenly or human. They are all endowed with bodies of Naturalness, Emptiness, and Infinity.”

The Land of Bliss is a realm of nirvana – no physical birth and death (body), as well as no mental production and extinction (mind), so rebirth [in the Land of Bliss] implies achieving Buddhahood. It means we attain the great enjoyment of the Buddha’s nirvana. Buddha’s joy and the great joy of nirvana. The great joy of nirvana is available only to the buddhas. Any being can attain the great joy of nirvana upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss. Great enjoyment in nirvana means achieving Buddha.

The name of Amitabha is the name of light, because the body of Amitabha is the body of light. We Amitabha-reciters are living every moment in Amitabha’s infinite light. Once reborn, we will enter Amitabha’s land of infinite light, as said in the Infinite Life Sutra.

The Infinite Life Sutra says that when Bodhisattva Dharmakara cultivated the bodhisattva practices, he made 48 great vows in front of Buddha Lokeshvararaja. Each and every vow pronounces that sentient beings in the ten directions are merely required to recite my name, and aspire to be reborn in my Land of Bliss. For those doing so in the present life, they persist for the rest of their lives; for those near the end-of-life, they can recite as little as ten times. If I fail to enable them to achieve rebirth, I will not attain Buddhahood.
Amitabha Buddha has been a Buddha now, so we know he is a reward Buddhahaving fulfilled his casual vow. The Pure Land that he has accomplished is the reward of his vows and his practices in the causal ground, so it is also a reward land.
Master Shandao raised this causal vow—the vow and practices in causal ground—for revealing that he is a Buddha at present. Being a Buddha at present, he is, of course, a Buddha rewarded by his vow and practices in the causal ground. So, he is called a reward Buddha, and his pure land a reward land.

The Land of Bliss does exist; but what exist on the land? There is the existence of gold being laid on the ground, pagodas with seven kinds of jewels, water of the eight merits and virtues, and various kinds of adornment. All these kinds of adornment, however, are not separable from Amitabha’s “nature of emptiness”.
So, Bodhisattva Vasubandhu says in his Treatise of Rebirth, “The land of Amitayus Buddha is adorned, is the supreme truth (of real emptiness), and is a form of the wonderful realm (i.e. the incomprehensible existence).” These pure adornments are precisely the supreme truth, of which the meaning is same as the “nature of emptiness” that the Diamond Sutra talks about.

The Pure Land of Amitabha is a realm designated exclusively for activities by buddhas with profound wisdom. It brings no benefit for iniquitous ordinary beings like us to make conjecture or wild guesses. It is better for us to be quickly reborn in the Pure Land by following the teaching of uninterrupted recitation of Amitabha’s name. By then, all will be self-evident and we don’t bother to ask.

Without recourse to the vow, even a bodhisattva of equal enlightenment cannot be reborn [in the Land of Bliss], not to say an ordinary being. Concerning with the ordinary beings, they don’t even have the ability to liberate themselves from reincarnation within the Six Realms, how can they be reborn in a highly splendid reward land?
“Self-power” of those beings on the Five Vehicles is not the cause for their entering into the reward land; the main cause is the sole entrustment to the Buddha’s vow. No matter of what kinds of aptitude, and whether their deeds are virtuous or evil, rebirth in the reward land relies solely on the power of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow, not on the practitioner’s own power.
Sentient beings’ mind is mixed with poisons, and their practices are conditioned and unreal; only Amitabha’s mind is pure, and his practices are real. So, only the power of Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow is taken into account, not the power of ordinary beings’ practices. Don’t take qualification of the sentient beings as a criteria for making judgment on whether rebirth is attained, but do ask whether one believes in Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow. Those who believe will be reborn; those who doubt will not.
In brief, the teaching of the Fundamental Vow targets mainly ordinary beings. If they believe in “other-power” and practice accordingly, they will be reborn in the rewarded land. In other words, those who are extremely stupid in the lowest class [without alternative choice], following the extremely virtuous and foremost teaching, are reborn in the extremely high and most splendid land.

The Land of Bliss is a reward land. Literally, a reward land means no difference in level and class, no gradual stages in the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Transferences and the Ten Grounds – not in this way.
The Amitabha Sutra says, “Why is that land called the Land of Bliss? The beings in that land suffer no pain but only enjoy pleasures of various kinds. For this reason, that land is called the Land of Bliss.” Regardless all kinds of sufferings that you know, none of them exists in the Land of Bliss. Regardless all kinds of happiness that you know, all of them exist in the Land of Bliss.
The sufferings that we know are those in the uninterrupted hells, flooding of greedy mind, fire of hatred and the reincarnation in the Three Domains and the Six Realms. All are non-existent in the Land of Bliss, even that ‘suffering’ of expectation of the low-grade sages to achieve high-grade ones is non-existent. As compared with our sufferings in reincarnation, it is not suffering. It is a kind of ‘unattainable’ expectation, which is also transcended in the Land of Bliss. So, it says, ‘Suffer no pain but only enjoy pleasures of various kinds.’
Among all kinds of realms, the happiness in Buddha’s realm is the best, which is the great happiness, the joy of nirvana. Once reborn, we will enjoy all kinds of happiness that we can imagine and that we can realize. It is called a reward land. So, it is not required to undergo levels and grades. If it is required, it means he relies on dedication of ‘self-powered’ merits and virtues, not on Amiatbha’s name in accordance with his Fundamental Vow.

The precious characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism is that we pursue not just emancipation of ourselves, but also deliverance of other sentient beings. All these ability and power are sufficiently included in Amitabha’s vows. So, once reborn in the Land of Bliss, we will possess the same wisdom, paranormal powers, and vow power as the Buddha’s, and will go to the worlds of ten directions and deliver sentient beings there. Thus, Master Tanluan highlights the 22nd Vow, and says, “[Such bodhisattvas] transcend the course of practice of the ordinary bodhisattvas, manifest the practices of all the bodhisattva stages, and cultivate the universally-worthy virtues”.
That is to say, cultivation in the Land of Bliss transcends the gradual course of practice of the ordinary bodhisattvas, and practitioners do not need to advance from the first ground to the second and third, and then to the eighth, ninth and tenth ground. So, the Pure Land School is a teaching of “lateral transcendence”. Once reborn in the Land of Bliss, one will directly achieve the Bodhisattva State of Equal Enlightenment.

Although the Land of Bliss is a circumstantial reward, it is equivalent to the realm of nirvana in the direct reward. What is the realm of nirvana in direct reward? It is not produced and will not extinct; it has no beginning and no ending; it is original in permanent existence, and not created artificially. The Land of Bliss, however, has beginning, but no ending. It is because the Pure Land was accomplished by the infinite vows and infinite practices of Amitabha Buddha in his causal ground. So, it is not in stillness and formless. Rather, it has forms and shapes.
Although (the Land of Bliss) has forms and shapes, it is equivalent to the formless and shapeless realm of nirvana, which is pure, serene, unchanged, and not contaminated. It is said to be “next to the way of unconditioned nirvana”. So, the pure adornments of the Land of Bliss cannot be imagined and perceived.
The Sutras said that the ground of the Land of Bliss is covered with gold and the pavilions are made of seven kinds of jewels. Although described like that, it is in fact a makeshift presentation for comprehension by ordinary beings. The true landscapes can only be understood correctly when we are reborn there.

The Land of Bliss is a world of enlightenment, a world of nirvana. Only those who obey and follow Amitabha’s Name of Perfect Enlightenment, also receive and accept the meritorious virtues of the Name of Perfect Enlightenment can be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land of nirvana.
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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