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Amitabha’s Vow-Power: The Augmentative Cause that Bestows Splendid Merit and Real Benefits

By Alan Kwan
Buddhistdoor Global | 2021-03-23 |
From eso.orgFrom eso.org

The greatness of Amitabha’s power and ease of Amitabha-recitation

Master Yinguang (18611940), a great Pure Land patriarch, said that many Buddhists misunderstand the Pure Land teaching as they cannot perceive the greatness of Amitabha Buddha’s power or the ease of the practice of Amitabha-recitation.

In addition, many practitioners err by categorizing Amitabha’s teaching of deliverance (the “other-power” teaching) within Shakyamuni’s teaching of cultivation (the “self-power” teaching) and attempt to interpret the former in terms of the latter. Thus, they become ensnared in a net of confusion and doubt.

Although they recite Amitabha Buddha’s Name in aspiration for rebirth in his Land of Bliss, they take up the “self-power” approach and dedicate the merit of other assorted practices to that end. But this is precisely the reason why many of them lose the great benefit of rebirth in the Pure Land.

The meaning and the functional meaning of Amitabha’s name

The Amitabha Sutra says: 

That Budddha’s light is boundless, illuminating the lands of the ten directions without any obstruction. This is why he is called Amitabha.

The Contemplation Sutra says:

The light of Amitabha permeates all the worlds, always embracing those who recite his Name.

Master Shandao, the de facto founder of the Pure Land School, combined the two texts and explained: 

The Buddha’s light is infinite, illuminating all lands in the ten directions without any obstruction. He watches over the Amitabha-reciters and embraces them always. That is why he is called Amitabha.

We should know that Amitabha’s Name contains immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable, profound, hidden, splendid, and unsurpassed merit and virtues. No matter who you are, all sentient beings who exclusively recite Amitabha’s Name can attain great benefits and unsurpassed merit and virtues immediately.

The splendid merit and real benefits received by Amitabha-reciters

As stated in my previous article, Master Shandao indicated that an exclusive Amitabha-reciter has three kinds of relationships with Amitabha Buddha, which leads to their constant embrace by Amitabha’s unimpeded and infinite light: the intimate relationship, the close relationship, and the augmentative relationship.

Furthermore, in the Exposition of the Merit of Samadhi of Contemplation and Recitation on the Ocean-like Figure of Amitabha Buddha, Master Shandao wrote:

Both in the present life and after death, they will certainly attain the great benefits with splendid merit. In connection with this, I will reveal, according to the Buddhist teaching, the causal conditions which bring forth five kinds of augmentative benefits, as follows:

1. The augmentative causal condition effecting eradication of one’s karmic offenses,

2. The augmentative causal condition effecting protection and longevity,

3. The augmentative causal condition enabling one to see the Buddha,

4. The augmentative causal condition embracing beings to be reborn,

5. The augmentative causal condition affirming one to attain rebirth.

The augmentative causal condition embracing beings to be reborn

In terms of deliverance, the power that Amitabha exerts on sentient beings is regarded as a “condition,” as it is an external force. However, this force is so strong that it dominates the effects of the karma of sentient beings without being obstructed. So this “augmentative condition” is also regarded as an “augmentative cause.”

Master Shandao, referring to the Infinite Life Sutra, also says:

All good and evil ordinary beings will not attain rebirth [in the Pure Land] without recourse to the karmic power of Amitabha’s Great Vow as an augmentative cause.

In the Infinite Life Sutra, the Buddha said that all sentient beings are different in terms of their dispositions and capacities, and so they may be divided into high, medium, and low tiers. The buddhas all urge them to exclusively recite the Name of Amitayus [the Buddha of Infinite Life] with singleness of mind, each according to his own aptitude and spiritual capacity. When they are about to die, the Buddha will come in person, uninvited, to welcome them with a multitude of sacred beings and enable them all to attain rebirth.

The Infinite Life Sutra also says:

If sentient beings encounter his light, their three defilements (greed, anger, and delusion) are removed; they feel tenderness, joy, and pleasure, and good thoughts arise. If sentient beings, desperately caught in the Three Wretched Realms, see his light, they will all be relieved and freed from afflictions. At the end of their lives, they are all delivered.

Master Shandao explains in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra:

Moreover, at the end of their lives, they will be welcomed by the Buddha and a multitude of sacred beings without them being invited. They will not be impeded by any deviant or evil karmic forces [preventing them from being reborn in the Land of Bliss].

Master Shandao also notes: 

For those sentient beings who exclusively recite Amitabha Buddha’s Name, the light of the Buddha always shines upon them, protecting and embracing them, never forsaking them; it does not shine upon and embrace those who perform miscellaneous practices.

Finally, he says:

Amitabha Buddha made a profound, weighty vow to embrace all beings with his light and transform them with his name, asking only that they have faith, aspire to rebirth in the Pure Land, and recite his name. Whether one recites an entire lifetime, or merely 10 times, or even just once, rebirth is easy because of the power of Amitabha’s vow.

Thus, all sentient beings who recite Amitabha’s Name exclusively are certainly embraced and protected by Amitabha’s light. They assuredly attain rebirth in the pure Land of Bliss in this lifetime. This is the teaching of the Pure Land school and also the pristine teaching of Amitabha’s deliverance.

Related features from Buddhistdoor Global 

Does Self-Reward Resulting from Another’s Acts Violate the Law of Karma?
The Land of Bliss: Amitabha’s to Build, Ours to Enjoy
To Become a Buddha by Rebirth in the Pure Land

More from Teachings of Amitabha by Alan Kwan

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