How to Comprehend “The Primary Intent of Shakyamuni Buddha For Appearing in the World Is to Teach Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow”?
Master Huijing’s Interpretation
The statement (in the title) is deduced from the following verse in the preface of The Infinite Life Sutra, which is called “The text of the Buddha’s primary intent for appearing in the world”:
The Tathagata, out of boundless compassion,
Takes pity on the deluded beings of the three domains.
Therefore, he appears in the world to show the Way
And deliver multitudes by bestowing true benefit.
It can be said that the entire Infinite Life Sutra explains Shakyamuni Buddha’s primary intent for appearing in the world, which is to “deliver multitudes of beings by bestowing true benefit.” The word “bestowing” means to grant unconditionally, at no cost, while “true benefit” refers to Amitabha’s merits and virtues, essentially meaning his name.
Therefore, if we condense this passage, we can see that the Buddha appears in this world out of great compassion primarily to teach Amitabha’s deliverance. Why do we say this? Because the aforementioned “true benefit” granted by the Buddha IS Amitabha’s name and deliverance.
The Mahāsamghāta Sutra says: “In the Dharma-Ending Age, while millions of cultivators are practicing the Dharma, only a few will achieve enlightenment; the only way to liberation is Amitabha name-recitation.” If the Buddha’s teachings were of no use to sentient beings, wouldn’t his appearance in this world be for nothing?
In other words, if there is a Dharma path that can universally liberate sentient beings, then the primary intent of all Buddhas of the three ages (past, present, and future) and ten directions for appearing in the world is to teach it, which is Amitabha’s deliverance, as spoken in The Infinite Life Sutra. Because of this Dharma path’s ability to universally deliver sentient beings, it encompasses all other Dharma paths, which are useless without it.
The World-Honored One has preached the Dharma for forty-nine years in over 300 Sangha gatherings, mainly to deliver sentient beings. So long as ONE Dharma path accomplishes this universally, it is sufficient even without the others. Therefore, teaching Amitabha’s deliverance from The Infinite Life Sutra is the primary intent of Shakyamuni Buddha for appearing in this world and fulfills the purpose of delivering sentient beings perfectly.
We can conclude that based on the meaning of the sutra, the phrase, “the primary intent of Shakyamuni Buddha for appearing in the world is to teach Amitabha’s fundamental vow,” can also be stated as “...to teach Amitabha’s deliverance.” When studying sutras, we must follow not the words but the meanings, grasp the essential points, and express them in a comprehensible language. If we interpret strictly by the words, we are doing injustice to the Buddhas of the three ages.
(Translated and edited by the Pure Land School Translation Team)
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