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A Wake-Up Call to all Buddhists

The pillars of creation. From

Why should I, as a Pure Land aspirant, feel deeply ashamed and remorseful?

Master Shandao says in the beginning of In Praise of Pratyutpanna, “I humbly tell all Pure Land aspirants: You should feel deeply ashamed and remorseful! Shakyamuni Buddha is actually your kind and compassionate parent, who provides various expedient teachings in order to arouse your unsurpassed faith.

When I read this for the first time, I was a bit shocked. Master Shandao is the de facto founder of the Pure Land School. Why should we, as Pure Land aspirants, feel deeply ashamed and remorseful? The following passage from the Contemplation Sutra, on “rebirth for those on the lowest level of the highest tier,” may give us an answer.

In the passage on “rebirth for those on the lowest level of the highest tier” it says, “They commit various evil acts; but, do not slander the more in depth Mahayana sutras. This passage refers to a foolish person who has committed a great deal of evil but feels no remorse.

In the passage on “rebirth for those on the middle level of the lowest tier” it says, “They violate the five precepts, the eight precepts, or the complete precepts of a monk or a nun. A foolish person such as this steals from the Sangha, takes the personal belongings of monks, or preaches the Dharma with impure motives, but feels no remorse.

Many Budddhists come across Buddhist teachings, either Mahayana or Theravada, by hearing the Dharma, reading the scriptures, and so on. However, they aren’t aware that they do not truly believe and accept the teachings. Because of this they fail to practice and uphold the teachings; and thus, they do not attain the benefits anticipated.

With respect to sutra-recitation, in the passage on “rebirth for those on the middle level of the highest tier” it says, “They do not necessarily uphold and recite the Mahayana Sutras; but, comprehend the teachings of the Buddha so well that, even when they hear the supreme truths, they are not dismayed.

Nowadays, how many Mahayana practitioners can comprehend the Bodhisattva teachings well and not be dismayed? Generally, their knowledge of the teachings is limited to the text’s literal meaning, and their own superficial analysis. They do not really comprehend the profound meaning of the sutras.

Without thorough understanding of the teachings, how can they diligently practice or uphold them, and attain the benefits of the Dharma? However, when they meet a good advisor, who talks about the Sutras near their end-of-life, they only remember the titles of the Sutras that they read before.

Shakyamuni proposed an alternative way for us to see the Buddha

With respect to upholding precepts, in the passage on “rebirth for those on the middle level of the middle tier” it says, They observe the eight abstinences, the precepts for a novice or the complete precepts of a monk or nun, and do not violate any of the rules of conduct for at least a day and night.

Nowadays, how many Buddhist practitioners can uphold or observe the precepts, and not violate any rules of conduct in a world so filled with greed and hatred? As said in Ksitigarbha Sutra, “Among sentient beings in Jambudvipa, what they think and what they do can only create negative karma and offenses.

Master Hongyi was very strict in upholding the precepts. He humbly said he could only hold the five precepts of a novice in the three karmas. Can Buddhists today follow any of Shakyamuni’s teachings and practices, well enough to enable them to see the Buddha, and be born in the Land of Bliss?

The answer is yes! In the Contemplation Sutra Shakyamuni proposed an “alternative way” to see Amitabha Buddha: to recite Amitabha’s Name exclusively for the rest of one’s life, aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land, and fully rely on Amitabha’s vow power. In contrast, one can dedicate his merit and virtues, if any, toward that rebirth.

Shakyamuni says that when a disciple is about to die, if he meets a good teacher who advises him to join his palms and recite “Na-mo-a-mi-tuo-fo” (Homage to Amitabha Buddha), he will be able to extinguish his accumulated karmic offenses, be liberated from samsara, and attain rebirth in the Land of Bliss.

Shakyamuni also advises us that all ordinary beings, with no worldly or Buddhist virtuous roots, can attain assured rebirth through exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s Name. This, of course, also applies to sagely sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas.

This is Shakyamuni’s wake-up call for all Buddhist practitioners. The underlying reason for him to provide the various expedient teachings of the Three or Five Vehicles is to arouse an unsurpassed faith: in Buddhas and in Amitabha’s deliverance through his vow power.

How can karma enable ordinary beings to open the gate to the Pure Land?

Shakyamuni Buddha is actually like our kind and compassionate parent. With a kindhearted mind, he divides his body across the Six Realms. He shares the Dharma with every single thought according to circumstances, because it is very difficult to awaken ordinary beings due to their heavy karmic baggage.

Ordinary beings in our defiled land are unable to recognize the Buddha, even if they encounter him face to face. Even if they come across the splendid Unconditioned Dharma by reading the Sutras, they unfortunately seek for the celestial and human rewards with sparse virtues.

Though some of them can see and hear the rare Dharma of Amitabha’s deliverance, they are too carefree and lazy to practice Amitabha-recitation. Because of this they do not gain any merit. Though they keep learning Buddhist teachings year after year, life after life, their minds are still full of greed and anger.

Master Shandao says, “Greed, anger, and ignorance are the three karmas of body, mouth and mind. How can their negative karma enable ordinary beings to open the gate to the Pure Land, inside of which is a realm of True Emptiness.” Amitabha’s Land of Bliss is an Unconditioned Realm of Nirvana, a realm of True Emptiness.

Last but not least, Master Shandao urges all ordinary beings, particularly those in the Dharma-Ending Age to “ to share the message with all people who wish to be reborn in the Pure Land, think of the Buddha’s compassion, and enter the assembly of sacred beings together.”

Related features from BDG

How Can Buddhas Deliver All Sentient Beings, Including Us, to Buddhahood?
Why are Two Buddhas Needed to Deliver All Sentient Beings?
How Did the Body of Amitabha Differ from That of Shakyamuni When They Became Buddhas?

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