Moreover, Shariputra, the Land of Ultimate Bliss has ponds of seven jewels filled with the waters of eight virtues.
Just as with the rows of railing, netting, and trees, the number seven in “ponds of seven jewels” symbolizes perfection. Unlike the gems of our world, those in the Pure Land are perfect: they are pure, flawless, and soft. Knowing that we are already familiar with their beauty, the Buddha spoke of gold, silver, lapus lazuli, and other precious gemstones. In reality, the infinite gems in the Pure Land are far superior to those here on earth. Their colors are incomparably more varied and their tactile quality vastly more pleasing.
The Pure Land has countless ponds “filled with the waters of eight virtues.” All who wish to can refresh themselves in the ponds. The Infinite Life Sutra explains that both the depth and the temperature of the water change to meet our wishes. The water will be as deep or as shallow, as warm or as cool as we would like it to be. And just like the water, everything in the Pure Land makes the beings there feel peaceful and content.
The first of the eight virtues is clear and pure. The water in the Pure Land is perfectly pure, unlike the water in our world, which is contaminated by natural and man-made pollutants. Even water from our most remote mountain streams contains impurities ranging from minerals to bacteria.
Second is cool. The temperature of the water in the Pure Land depends on the beings’ preferences. To say the water is cool means that it calms and cleanses their minds. Water temperatures in our world are subject to changes in weather and other influences. Ranging from boiling to freezing, water can easily become hazardous.
Third is sweet. The water in the Pure Land is pleasing and refreshing. In our world, ocean water is salty and undrinkable in its natural state. Even fresh water often tastes unpleasant.
Fourth is light and soft. The water in the Pure Land is very light because the beings there have let go of all attachments and discriminations. In our world, because of our substantial attachments, the water is so heavy that a single gallon of it weighs over eight pounds.
Fifth is moistening. While the water in the Pure Land is moistening, water in our world can dry out our skin. Thus, we often have to resort to moisturizers so our skin will return to its earlier supple and soft condition.
Sixth is peaceful. In the Pure Land, the water accords with the beings’ wishes. As it is always soothing and poses no danger, the beings feel very peaceful. Water in our world may be beautiful and calm. But it can also be dangerous, even life threatening, as ocean waves become so powerful that buildings are swept away and people are drowned.
Seventh is nourishing. The water in the Pure Land makes the beings there feel energetic, not only free from thirst, but from hunger and illness as well. In our world, drinking too much water leads to bloatedness and discomfort. After we drink, our throats can still feel rough and dry. We could even die from quickly drinking an excessive amount of water.
Eighth is nurturing. This is the most important virtue. The water in the Pure Land helps the beings there to strengthen their good roots. It purifies their thoughts, enabling them to improve in their practice. And merely by touching the water, they are invigorated. In this world, not only does water provide mere temporary relief from thirst, it is often unhealthy, thus causing problems for both our body and mind.