Sunday
Feb052017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 27 - Innumerable Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Moreover, this Buddha has innumerable disciples, all of whom are Arhats, whose numbers are incalculable. Amitabha also has a following of innumerable Bodhisattvas.

Amitabha Buddha’s innumerable arhat and bodhisattva students in the Pure Land came not just from our world, but also from the worlds in the ten directions. In those worlds, they listened to and followed the teachings of the Buddhas who were their fundamental teachers just like we follow the teachings of our fundamental teacher: Sakyamuni Buddha.

And just like Sakyamuni Buddha, all those Buddhas introduced the Western Pure Land and taught the Amitabha Sutra, the Infinite Life Sutra, and the Visualization Sutra. Their students who sincerely practiced the Pure Land method attained rebirth in the Western Pure Land. So numerous were these sincere students that their number was “incalculable.”

We know that bodhisattvas dwell in the Pure Land, but how can arhats be there? Although arhats do not practice the Pure Land method, if, when approaching death, they generate the bodhi mind and vow to be reborn in Amitabha’s land, they are able to achieve that rebirth. Once in the Pure Land, they will continue their progress by learning and practicing the Pure Land method.

Friday
Feb032017

Cultivation is like rowing a boat upriver:

unless we keep rowing steadily,

we’ll end up adrift. 

Few of us would disagree with the idea that sporadic practice does not benefit us as much as daily cultivation. But trying to find a way to squeeze one more task into our already hectic weekdays is, at the very least, daunting. And so, telling ourselves that this way we will get to chant and study for a longer time, we plan on practicing on weekends instead.

But even if we did keep to our weekend schedule, the benefits would not prove as significant as those from daily learning and practice.

First, we would not engage in the regular chanting that calms us and gradually empowers us to master our thoughts rather than be enslaved by them.

Second, cultivation includes applying the teachings in all we do. Regular teachings—even brief ones—help us remain focused.

Thus, instead of finding ourselves continually adrift, we will steadily progress. 

Sunday
Jan292017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 26 - The Buddha of Infinite Life

Also, the life-span of this Buddha and his people is an infinite number of immeasurable eons, and so he is called Amitabha. Amitabha Buddha attained enlightenment ten eons ago.

In this world, to be reborn as a human being is an unbelievably rare opportunity. Such a birth is as rare as a turtle rising from the depths of a vast sea to break through the surface into the center of the solitary wreath of flowers floating on the water. As incredibly rare as this is, far rarer is it to be reborn as a human when a Buddha is teaching the Dharma. We can see this in our world of Endurance.

Almost 3000 years ago, Sakyamuni Buddha taught in our world for forty-nine years. He said that the teachings would remain for 12,000 years. This stretch of time would comprise three ages: the Dharma Perfect Age, the Dharma Semblance Age, and the Dharma-ending Age. We have already entered the last age, the Dharma-ending Age, which will continue for 9000 years. Sakyamuni Buddha said that when this age comes to a close, only one sutra, the Amitabha Sutra, will remain. After 100 years, this sutra too will be gone. After that for a final 100 more years, only the name “Amitabha Buddha” will remain. Then, that too will be gone, and the teachings will be lost to us for 5,670 million years until Maitreya Bodhisattva comes to this world, this Buddha Land, to become a Buddha and teach us the Dharma.

Conversely, in the Pure Land, Amitabha Buddha has been teaching for ten eons, or kalpas, and is still teaching! What’s more, he will continue to teach for an incredibly long time for his lifetime “is an infinite number of immeasurable eons.”

In Sanskrit, infinite signifies a particular number, just like ten is a specific number in English. When used in the sutra, infinite means a number so inconceivably large that we are incapable of calculating it. Nonetheless, it signifies a given length of time. So even a lifespan of “an infinite number of immeasurable eons” will eventually end.

When Amitabha’s lifespan ends, and he enters parinirvana, Avalokitesvara will immediately become the next Buddha in the Pure Land. Then, after Avalokitesvara enters parinirvana, Mahasthamaprapta will immediately become the next Buddha. From this, we can see yet another of the inconceivable advantages of being reborn in the Pure Land. Not only is the environment ideal, but we also know two of the future Buddhas who will continue teaching when their predecessors enter parinirvana. Knowing who the next two Buddhas in the Pure Land will be assures us of the amazing continuity in the teachings. 

Sunday
Jan222017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 25 - The Buddha of Infinite Light

The light of this Buddha is infinite, and shines on all lands throughout the universe without obstruction. Thus this Buddha is called Amitabha.

When Sariputra remained silent, Sakyamuni Buddha went on to explain Amitabha Buddha’s name in terms of infinite “light.” In the next passage, he will speak of Amitabha’s infinite “life-span.” “Infinite” describes that which is innate in the true nature: infinite wisdom, infinite virtues and abilities, and infinite auspicious marks. These three categories of infiniteness cover all the infinities in the entire universe. “Light” represents space, and “life” represents time. Thus, infinite light and infinite life encompass all of space and all of time. And so they are used here to symbolize all infinities.

Sunday
Jan152017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 24 - Why Is This Buddha Called Amitabha

What do you think: why is this Buddha called Amitabha?

Why did the Buddha introduce Amitabha and the Pure Land? Because Amitabha is an excellent teacher for us. We can practice this Pure Land method confident in the knowledge that, in doing so correctly, we can attain Buddhahood in just one lifetime. Furthermore, people in our world have a strong affinity with Amitabha. Due to this affinity, we feel drawn to him. We are happy to learn from him, glad to chant his name. And so the Buddha introduced this method to us.

As Great Master Ouyi wrote, “This sutra expressly teaches the wonderful practice of mindful Buddha-name chanting, so it makes a special point of explaining this name. This is to enable people to deeply believe that this great name, which is endowed with myriad virtues, is inconceivable, so that they would single-mindedly chant the Buddha-name with no more doubts.”

We must first understand that the most important teaching in this sutra is that we should mindfully chant the Buddha’s name. Chanting is the easiest, the most convenient, and the most wondrous of the four forms of the Buddha Mindfulness practice. The four forms are Buddha Mindfulness based on Real Mark, Buddha Mindfulness by contemplation of an image, Buddha Mindfulness by visualization, and Buddha Mindfulness by Buddha-name chanting. The Amitabha Sutra advocates the fourth form, as does the Infinite Life Sutra. These sutras attest to the profound significance of the name Amitabha Buddha. For these reasons, Sakyamuni Buddha made a point of emphasizing the name by asking Sariputra why he thought this Buddha is called Amitabha.