14title.gif (8179 個位元組)

e14.jpg (9210 個位元組) Dear Venerables and Dharma Friends,

Today, we are going to talk about the Amitabha Sutra and the Pure Land School of Buddhism. It is said in the Buddhist sutra, "Thousands of sutras and tens of thousands of discourses all point to the land of Ultimate Bliss." Regardless of which Buddhist sect one belongs to, or which course of cultivation one practices, the Pure Land School of Buddhism is always highly regarded.

 

I. The Beginning of the Pure Land School of Buddhism

During the time of the Buddha, there was a king called King Bimbisara who was incarcerated by his son, Prince Ajatasatru. Even the king's wife, Queen Vaidehi, was prohibited from seeing her king. Prince Ajatasatru was a cruel

man and an unfilial son. In order to seize the throne, he locked up his father and deprived him of food. Under these trying circumstances, King Bimbisara was sad and despondent. He was dismayed at being in this saha world of the five impuritiesa place full of unbearable anguish and teemed with hungry ghosts and suffering animals. Faced with this world where sufferings abound, he thought to himself, "Oh, Lord Buddha! Why do you not come to my aid during this difficult time of my life? Can you show me a sanctuary where I can rest my weary self?"

In the meantime, Queen Vaidehi, who had repeatedly asked to see her king, was finally allowed to visit the king. Prince Ajatasatru, however, forbade her to bring the starving King any food. In desperation, the Queen painted her body with a layer of flour paste in the hope that the paste might provide the king with some relief. At such a time of anguish and despair, the two of them prayed to the Buddha for his compassion and guidance. To their amazement, the Buddha manifested his supernatural power and appeared before them. The Buddha told the King and Queen, "To the west of this saha world, beyond a hundred thousand million Buddha Lands, there is a world called Ultimate Bliss.' The teacher of the land, Amitabha Buddha, is currently there teaching the Dharma. In the land of Amitabha Buddha, there is no suffering, only happiness. It is the most serene, secure, and happy place. If you recite the name of Amitabha with single mindedness, Amitabha Buddha will use the strength of his great vow to receive you to be reborn in the Pure Land."

After listening to the guidance of the Buddha, King Bimbisara and Queen Vaidehi started to recite the name of Amitabha Buddha. In the course of their praying, a radiant pure land did indeed appear before their eyes. This is the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha and is what is now called "The World of Ultimate Bliss." This marks the beginning of the Pure Land School of Buddhism.

 

II. The Basis of the Pure Land School of Buddhism

The existence of the Pure Land is not just recognized by the Pure Land School itself, mentioned only in the Pure Land sacred text of three sutras and one sastraSukhavati-vyuha Sutra, Amitayus Sutra, Amitabha Sutra, and Pure Land Sastra. In fact, most of the Mahayana sutras and sastras have often mentioned the Pure Land teachings, practice, and Dharma method. Speaking of the existence of the Pure Land, let me take you through the following points.

 

A. We know of the existence of the Pure Land through the holy words of the Buddha

The existence of an object cannot be simply determined by us saying it exists or it does not exist. We need to make the correct assessment(s) before we can objectively determine the existence of an object. Take the example of this desk here. No one would refute that there is a desk; the desk is here for all to see. This is called direct infer-ence. Now suppose we want to know the length of an object, we need to measure it with a ruler; or suppose we want to know the weight of an object, we need to weigh it with a scale. These kinds of measurements are called comparative inferences. Another kind of assessment we can make to determine if something exists or not is by inferring from the holy words of sages. Sages are people of great wisdom; their words are unerring and are worthy of our trust. This type of assessment is called inference from the holy words of sages.

We learn of the existence of the Pure Land through the words of the Buddha. In the Amitabha Sutra, the Buddha said, "A hundred thousand million Buddha Lands beyond the saha world is a world called Ultimate Bliss.' In this world, there is a Buddha called Amitabha Buddha, who is currently teaching the Dharma." The Buddha is a holy person and his words are infallible. In fact, one of the Buddha's thirty-two marks of excel-lence was his broad, long tongue. His tongue, when extended, could cover his nose and face. This mark of excellence is the result of never speaking falsely. Thus, when the Buddha told us that there is a pure land of ultimate bliss in this universe, we can most definitely believe that it exists.

 

B. We know of the existence of the Pure Land through historical records of people being reborn there

The Record of Sages of Pure Land, a three volume record compiled in the Ch'ing Dynasty, contained many cases of old masters throughout history who practiced the Pure Land School of Buddhism and were reborn into the Pure Land. For example, there was the case of Master Hui Yuan, the Founding Patriarch of the Pure Land School. He practiced mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha and personally witnessed the manifestation of Amitabha Buddha on three separate occasions.

There was a record about a monk during the T'ang Dynasty by the name of Master Shan Tao. Every time he recited the name of Amitabha Buddha, a ray of light would emanate from his mouth. Ten times he recited the name of Amitabha Buddha, ten rays of light would emanate from his mouth. A hundred times he recited the name of Amitabha Buddha, a hundred rays of light would emanate from his mouth. Because of this, he was also called the Monk of Brightness.

Of more recent times, there is the example of Master Yin Kuang. He recited the name of Amitabha Buddha all his life and was able to foretell the time of his passing. There were also many cases of secular men and women who recited the name of Amitabha Buddha and were reborn in the Pure Land. In 1948, there was a layman by the name of Sung-Nien Wu, who informed his family and friends that he would pass away at eight the next morning and asked them to come by his house to help him recite the name of Amitabha Buddha at the moment of his passing. When everyone arrived at his house the following morning, he was eating his breakfast as usual and did not look like someone who was about to pass away. However, just before 8:00 a.m., he sat in a lotus position and passed away in the midst of his family and friends chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha.

There are many records of people throughout history who practiced mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha and were able to foretell the time of their passings. Some could see Amitabha Buddha coming to welcome them, others could hear delightful music in the air, and some others could smell soothing fragrance in the room. These auspicious signs can be experienced by any Pure Land practitioners who have attained perfection in their mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha and are reborn in the Pure Land. The wondrous working of the Pure Land School is not something that those who have yet to practice this method of cultivation can comprehend.

 

C. We know of the existence of the Pure Land through scientific evidence

Based on our scientific knowledge, we know that there are other solar systems besides our own, and that there are other galaxies besides our own Milky Way. In other words, there are many other worlds in addition to our own world, the planet Earth. The vastness and limitlessness of the universe is way beyond what our ancestors could have imagined.

In fact, we do not really need the findings of modern science to tell us that there are other worlds besides ours. In the Buddhist sutras, there is an interesting story that talks about the existence of other worlds. Once when Sakyamuni Buddha was teaching the Dharma, [he told his disciples that] his voice could be heard many distant lands away and that the force of his voice could be felt in many worlds. One of the Buddha's disciples, Maudgalyayana, who was the foremost in supernatural power, was skeptical that the Buddha's voice could reach such far-off places. He decided to investigate for himself and used his supernatural power to go to a Buddha Land that was ten billion Buddha Lands away. In this Buddha Land, Tathagata Lokesvaraja was preaching the Dharma. At this particular moment, a person in the audience picked up something on his body and exclaimed, "Why is a little worm crawling on my body?"

Tathagata Lokesvaraja said, "This is not a little worm; this is Maudgalyayana, a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha from the saha world." Actu-ally, Maudgalyayana was not small; it was just when compared with the people of this Buddha Land, he was no bigger than a little worm. Then Tathagata Lokesvaraja told Maudgalyayana, "The eminence and virtues of all Buddhas are not something that can be comprehended and equaled by sravakas. You should not test them with your supernatural power." From then on, Maudgalyayana firmly believed that there are limitless worlds and limitless Buddhas in the vast immenseness of space.

 

III. The Different Types of Pure Lands

[In addition to the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, there are many other pure lands.] The many pure lands can be classified into four main categories: the distinctive pure lands of the Mahayana School, the pure land of the Three Vehicles, the pure land of the Five Vehicles, and the pure land on Earth.

 

A. The Distinctive Pure Lands of the Mahayana School

The distinctive pure lands of the Mahayana (or the Great Vehicle) School include the Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss and the Medicine Buddha's (i.e., Bhaisajyaguru Buddha) Pure Land of Azure Radiance. In fact, Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is especially remarkable.

Although there are numerous discussions in Mahayana sutras regarding the many pure lands of the various Buddhas of the ten directions and espousing their many easy-to-travel paths of cultivation, it is the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha that elicits the most awe and wonderment. Of the many Dharma methods discussed in the sutras, the most extraordinary is that of the Pure Land practice where one recites and remembers the name of Amitabha Buddha so that one may be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. This Dharma method is an unique feature of Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land and is the result of the strength of the forty-eight great vows which Amitabha Buddha made while he was cultivating [to become a Buddha]. With the merits of his compassionate vows, Amitabha Buddha manifests the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. Amitabha Buddha also proclaims categorically that anyone who believes in the great vows of Amitabha Buddha and wishes to be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss should contemplate the name of Amitabha Buddha, be it for one day, two days, or even just ten times. If the person is sincere and can contemplate the name of Amitabha Buddha with one-pointedness of mind, the strength of Amitabha Buddha will guide the person to be reborn by transformation into a lotus flower in the land of Ultimate Bliss, even though he or she may still be burdened with karma. Once one reaches the Pure Land, [one does not regress back into the wheel of rebirth. This is because in the Pure Land,] one continues to practice so that one will eventually become free from the wheel of rebirth and attain the ultimate bodhi. [Because of the unique features of this Dharma method,] it is said that the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is most remarkable.

The other pure land is the Medicine Buddha's Eastern Pure Land of Azure Radiance. While the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha symbolizes restoration, the Pure Land of Medicine Buddha symbolizes growth. It says in the sutra that when Medicine Buddha was cultivating the path of Buddhahood, he made twelve great vows. He vowed to help us sentient beings so that we grow in wisdom and are successful in our careers and endeavors; he vowed to help us when we are handicapped, poor, and helpless. He vowed that we will not be lacking in food and other neces-sities, that we do not fall prey to false teachings, that we do not break the law and thus are safe from the pain of punishment, that there is equality between the genders, and that we will become Buddhas. With his great vows, Medicine Buddha manifests the Pure Land of Azure Radiance in the east. Most remarkably, the Bhaisajyaguru Sutra points out that those who recite the name of Medicine Buddha can also be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha in the west if they so desire and practice accordingly.

Some people may say that the heaven of the Christian religion is the same as the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss in Buddhism. Actually, the two are not the same. Venerable Yin Shun, a contemp-orary master, pointed out two differences between the Buddhist Pure Land and the Christian heaven.

1. Complete equality with no class differ-ence. In the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, there is complete equality, with no class difference. This is not true for the Christian heaven, where only God is God and other heavenly beings will never become God. In the Pure Land, everyone can become Buddha. There is no class difference.

2. Continuing practice and not final fulfillment. Christians believe that going to heaven is the final fulfillment or the ultimate state. This contrasts with the Buddhist teachings that one still needs to practice even after being reborn into the Pure Land. In the Pure Land, as one is reborn by transformation into a lotus flower, one must continue to practice until the lotus flower blooms. In other words, one learns the Dharma and practices accordingly until Buddhahood is attained.

 

B. The Pure Land of the Three Vehicles

The Pure Land of the Three Vehiclessravaka, pratyeka-buddha, and Bodhisattvais the liberation they realize as they practice and cultivate according to the following stages: eliminate defilements, realize the truth, and become liberated from life and death. Although the Pure Land they realize is from the same Dharma and results in the same liberationjust as all rivers entering the sea will acquire the same salty taste of the seatheir state of mind tends to be founded on self-liberation. Though it is true that these holy practitioners do not create any more new karma and will not go through the suffering of life and death again, they should continue to further their practice toward an even more sublime state of mind. The Pure Land of the Three Vehicles is not the ultimate goal; it is only a stop on their way to the destination. Thus, the holy practitioners of the Three Vehicles should also recite the name of Amitabha Buddha and aim for the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss so they can continue on their path to Buddhahood.

 

C. The Pure land of the Five Vehicles

The Pure Land of the Five Vehicleshuman, celestial being, and the three vehicles mentioned in the last sectionis in fact the Tusita Pure Land of Maitreya Bodhisattva, whom Sakyamuni Bud-dha had prophesied will be the future Buddha of our world. The Tusita Pure Land, also known as the Inner Court of Tusita, is a majestic, pure heaven within the three realms, where Maitreya Bodhisattva is currently teaching the Dharma. If one is reborn in the Tusita Pure Land, one will be able to see Maitreya Bodhisattva. When Maitreya Bodhisattva becomes the Buddha of our world in the future, one will also follow Maitreya Bodhi-sattva and be reborn into this world. In this way, one has the opportunity to personally listen to the teachings of the Maitreya Buddha.

 

D. The Pure Land on Earth

An example of the Pure Land on Earth is the one described in the Vimalakirti Sutra. It was said in the sutra that though Vimalakirti lived in the saha world, his state of mind was that of the Pure Land. [So, what does the Pure Land on Earth mean? Before, we explore the answer to this question, we have to first understand the where-abouts of pure lands.]

When we speak of pure lands, be it the Mahayana Pure Land, the heavenly Pure Land, or the earthly Pure Land, we can use the colloquial term "heaven" to speak of them. When people ask where heaven or hell is, they are, in a certain way, also raising the question of the whereabouts of pure lands. In this regard, I would like to make the following three points.

1. Heaven can be found in heaven, and hell can be found in hell.

2. Both heaven and hell can be found among us. There are many of us, who because of previous merits and good causal conditions, enjoy a peaceful and happy life. Is this not life in heaven? Then, there are those who are beset with mental anguish and are afflicted with physical pain. Is this not life in hell?

3. Both heaven and hell are in one's mind. There are people whose minds are filled with grudges, discontentment, mistrust, hatred, greed, and delusionthis is hell. If we can forget about disputes with others, expand our hearts and minds to accept everything, give generously to others, be complimentary of others, or treat others with compassionthis is heaven. As we have not been reborn into the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss at this moment, the way that we can be close to Amitabha Buddha is to work together to transform our saha world into a Pure Land on Earth.

If we want to construct a Pure Land on Earth, we have to start with our minds because "when the mind is pure, the land is also pure." We have to start with eliminating unwholesome attach-ments to the five desires (wealth, beauty, fame, food, and sleep) and the six worldly dusts (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and idea).

Once, Sariputra asked the Buddha, "The Buddha lands of the ten directions are all very pure. Why is our saha world so corrupted and filthy?"

The Buddha replied, "You cannot comprehend the world in which I live." With this, the Buddha pressed the earth with his toe. Immediately, the world became brilliant, pure, and magnificent. The Buddha then continued, "This is the world in which I live."

From this, we can see that while we may be doing the same task in the same place at the time, we all react differently. The worlds within our minds are all different.

Among the different types of pure lands in Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss of the distinctive Mahayana teachings is especially remarkable. While there is the Pure Land of the Three Vehicles, it is biased toward liberation only for themselves. Although the "easily accessible" Pure Land of Maitreya Bodhisattva is open to all, it does not provide the opportunity of "realizing Buddhahood in one lifetime" that is available in Amitabha's Pure Land. Also, as the Maitreya Pure Land is within the Tusita Heaven, it is still within the three realms [of the wheel of rebirth]; in contrast, the Amitabha's Pure Land is one in which those who are reborn into it will never regress [back into the swirl of rebirth.]

 

IV. A Description of the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha

A simple description of the Pure Land of Amitabha is that it is pure. Purity means radiance, holiness, peacefulness, and happiness. There are five kinds of purity in the Pure Land of Amitabha: the purity of the environment, the purity of life, the purity of economics, the purity of the people, and the purity of body and mind.

 

A. The Purity of the Environment

Among the many social problems we have currently, a serious problem is the pollution of the environment. All forms of pollution exist, threatening our health and endangering human existence. There is no environmental pollution in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. Its ground is covered with gold. In the Pure Land, there are seven rows of railings, seven layers of nets, and seven rows of trees everywhere. Ponds are made of seven jewels, and water has eight excellent qualities. Everything is made of gold, silver, or lapis lazuli, and there is no filth and pollution. The construction of the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is better than the most modern city; its scenery is more picturesque than any national park.

Some people may be skeptical that such a divine place can possibly exist. Let me use two examples to dispel such skepticism. If someone had suggested several hundred years ago that there would be a kind of oily substance which could be used to pave roads to give them a smooth clean surface, nobody at that time would have believed of such a possibility. Today, roads paved with asphalt are very common. A few hundred years ago, it was inconceivable that people living on the top floor of a tall building would be able to have running water just by turning on the faucet. Today, no matter on which floor one lives, one can get running water with the turn of the faucet. This is also true of the remarkable features of the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss that we alluded to earlierwe need to believe in the existence of the Pure Land. In the Pure Land, palaces beamed of grandeur, birds speak of Dharma, trees and flowers play music, grounds radiate with beauty, and water flows clean and pure.

For those who are reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, life is healthy and happy. When they wake up in the morning, their eyes feast on the beautiful surroundings, and their hunger is automatically satisfied. When they listen to Amitabha Buddha teaching the Dharma, they are no longer thirsty and tired. After mealtime, they use their robes to carry flowers and fly off to the Buddha lands in ten directions to make offerings to the different Buddhas. They take walks by the water and the woods. Life in the Pure Land is carefree. People are kind and virtuousthey listen to the Dharma, practice the teachings, and are mindful of the Buddha. In the Pure Land, the environment is beautiful, buildings are magnif-icent, and streets are paved and tree-lined. Everyone who is reborn here is happy and content. This is why they call this place the World of Ultimate Bliss.

 

B. The Purity of Life

When one lives in a pure environment, one's life becomes pure as well. Life in the World of Ultimate Bliss is different from that of our world. There are no concerns for fame, fortune, and the necessities of everyday living. In the World of Ultimate Bliss, those who need clothing will be clothed; those who need food will be fed. They are at ease and without any worries.

It occurs to me that our lives very much revolve around our need for three meals a day. We spend a lot of time and energy mulling in the kitchen, cooking our meals, then we spend even more time consuming the food, and then passing the waste out of our bodies. Then the cycle starts again, day after day, month after month, and year after year. How tiresome and exhausting! This is in stark contrast to life in the Pure Land, where everything is satisfying. Every aspect of life, from clothing, shelter, transportation, and enter-tainment, is pleasing and trouble-free. Life there is pure and refined.

 

C. The Purity of Economics

People who are reborn in the World of Ultimate Bliss lead a very different life than people in our worldthey need not worry about money problems or financial status. They do not need to worry about transportation because they can freely fly to wherever they want. They do not need to buy any houses because they can live at ease in any circumstances. They do not need to save up money because they have the wealth of the Dharma. They do not need to engage in business because they do not lack anything. People reborn in the Pure Land live a life rich in Dharma, and they enjoy a life of practicing the Dharma. The Pure Land is free of economic problems of any kind, and those who are reborn there live a life without contention and hidden agendas. People in the Pure Land live in accordance with Truth and hence are perfectly free.

 

D. The Purity of People

In our world, conflicts between nations, between people, or even between family members are unavoidable. But in the World of Ultimate Bliss, there are no such problems. It says in the Amitabha Sutra, "All meritorious people gather together" They gather for the pursuit of Truth and for the understanding of the Dharma. They are focused in contemplating the Buddha and the Dharma, and they do not entangle themselves in power struggles, profit wars, battles of wits, and senseless disputes. Everyone lives together in peace and harmony. Thus, the World of Ultimate Bliss is truly a place that is worthy of our pursuit. We should always be mindful of Amitabha Buddha and recite the Buddha's name so that we are able to be reborn there.

 

E. The Purity of Body and Mind

In the World of Ultimate Bliss, the body of one who is reborn there comes from the transformation of a lotus flower; therefore it does not have to go through the suffering of birth, aging, sickness, and death. The mind is also pure; there are no contaminating thoughts of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Both the external body and the internal mind are in accordance with Truth. There is no worry, suffering, or dispute. Life is pure and carefree, which is why this world is called the World of Ultimate Bliss.

What I have said today about the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss represents only a glimpse of the whole. The Pure Land is not something that can be described in a few simple sentences. What I have covered here is only a small fraction of what is said in the Amitabha Sutra.

 

V. Why do we need the Pure Land in this day and age?

Living in the times of today when the political arena of the world is volatile, social order is fragile, and individuals are distressed, there are more reasons than ever why we need the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. Why do we need to be mindful of Amitabha Buddha and recite his name? Why do we need to practice the Dharma method of the Pure Land School? The reasons are:

 

A. Darkness needs light

Darkness exists everywhere; it pervades in society as well as in people's minds. One who is feeling his way through life in darkness needs light and yearns for light. Where can one find light? Light can be found in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss; there is no darkness in the Pure Land. Amitabha Buddha is also called the Buddha of Limitless Light. Because we need light, therefore we need the Pure Land.

 

B. Suffering needs solace

Living and working in our world, we are bound to face disappointments and hardships sooner or later. Who can we turn to for solace during these difficult times? There is a saying which captures the loneliness of one in despair; it goes like this: The rich may reside in remote places, but they still have visitors from afar. The poor may live in the midst of the city, yet there is no one asking about them. Amitabha Buddha is always close by when we are in trouble. Even when the whole world has turned away from us, Amitabha Buddha will not desert us as long as we recite his name. Thus, it is very important that we recite the name of Amitabha Buddha.

 

C. War needs peace

As wars and conflicts erupt in different parts of the world, lives are disrupted and anguish is everywhere. People need and wish for peace. The Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is where we can find eternal peace. In the meantime, we can build a Pure Land on Earth with our kindness and compassion. When we all practice patience and tolerance under the compassionate guiding light of Amitabha Buddha, our world will attain eternal peace.

 

D. Volatility needs stability

If we were to frequently move from place to place, we would most certainly feel unsettled and agitated. When we have a chance to settle down in a stable and reliable environment, we will no doubt feel secure and at ease. Only the World of Ultimate Bliss can offer us true security. Our saha world is chaotic and volatile. In a span of a few decades, our world has witnessed both World War I and World War II, and we are not far from the possibility of World War III. The Buddha described our predicament most accurately when the Buddha said, "The three realms are like burning houses; there is no safety in the three realms." It was not that long ago in the seventies when an energy shortage disrupted global transportation and sent the world economy into a tailspin. During these volatile times, we need the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss most urgently.

 

E. Poverty needs wealth

When we are well provided for, we do not have to worry about our means of living from one day to the next. Buddhism does not reject or disapprove of material prosperity. In fact, material prosperity in the Pure Land far exceeds that of our world. Even the ground is carpeted with gold. There are many places in our saha world that are afflicted with poverty, which can in turn cause a host of other problems. Everyone wishes for comfortable living; in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, everyone is well provided for and lives comfortably. We can, indeed, say that the Land of Ultimate Bliss is the most prosperous place where poverty is completely erased.

 

F. Brevity needs eternity

Life is too short. Even if one can live to the incredible age of one hundred years, time still passes by like a flash of lightning. The life of Amitabha Buddha is limitless and transcends time. If we can attain eternity from brevity, is life not beautiful? The Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is an eternal world.

 

G. Affliction needs relief

There are many afflictions in life. There are the afflictions of greed, hatred, delusion, and envy. Passion, animosity, and endearment are also forms of affliction. Then, there are afflictions such as hunger, excessive warmth, extreme coldness, and thirst. Of course, disappointments and sorrows are afflictions, too. These afflictions are like iron chains which bind each and every one of us. We all want to be free from these shackles. The way to achieve this is to be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

 

H. Rebirth needs deliverance

Living and dying, dying and livingwe course through the six realms of existence without any respite. We all have to face the wheel of rebirth. The unending cycles of living and dying can be compared to an abyss that traps us in its depths. Sometimes we yearn for a longer life, and at other times we have the fear of dying. Our yearning for a longer life cannot prolong our life for even one second. Our fear of dying cannot protect us from dying. Thus, we should strive for the state of birthlessness. Only in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss are we truly delivered from the wheel of rebirth.

We have seen that because of our need for light, solace, peace, stability, wealth, eternity, relief, and deliverance that we should strive to be reborn in the Pure Land. But, how can we be reborn in the Pure Land. There are many kinds of practices leading to the Pure Land, and the easiest one is the recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha. If we have the three criteria of faith, will, and practice, together with the necessary merits, virtues, and causal conditions, and if we can recite the name of Amitabha Buddha with single pointedness of the mind, then we will surely be reborn in the Pure Land.

[How can we ensure that we have all the necessary causes and conditions mentioned above?] Let me conclude our talk today by offering you here the three essential practices described in the Amitayus Sutra:

  1. Be filial to your parents, be respectful of your teachers and elders, be compassionate and abstain from killing, and be willing to practice benevolence.
  2. Follow the Three Refuges (refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), observe the precepts, do not violate the proper rules of conduct, and maintain mental and physical purity.
  3. Develop your Bodhicitta, believe in the law of cause and effect, recite and understand the Mahayana teachings, and encourage others to practice the same.