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Those with Faith in the Name Should Aspire to Rebirth in the Land of Bliss

Buddhas at Bingling Temple Grottoes, China. Photo by Buddhistdoor Global

Urging sentient beings to aspire to rebirth in the Land of Bliss for the third time

In the Amitabha Sutra, after the buddhas of the six directions praise Amitabha’s virtues and certify the rebirth of those who hold fast Amitabha’s Name with singleness of mind without confusion, Shakyamuni Buddha earnestly urges sentient beings, for what is actually a third time, to aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Land of Bliss. He says:  

All good men and women who hear the Name of Amitabha Buddha expounded by all the Buddhas and the name of this Sutra are protected by all the Buddhas and dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression for realizing the highest, perfect Enlightenment. This is why, Shariputra, you should accept my words and the teachings of all the Buddhas.

Shariputra, those who have already aspired, now aspire or in the future will aspire to be born in Amitabha Buddha’s land, all dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression for realizing the highest, perfect Enlightenment. They have already been born, are now being born, or will be born in that land. Hence, Shariputra, good men and women of faith should aspire to birth there.

With the attestation of all the buddhas, Shakyamuni Buddha wishes sentient beings to have faith in Amitabha’s Vow of Deliverance through his Name. This is not just his own original intent and Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow; it is the common wish of all buddhas of the ten directions to deliver sentient beings like us and help them to attain assured rebirth through exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s Name: Namo Amituofo!

Ordinary beings must believe and accept the Pure Land teaching by faith

Amitabha’s Land of Bliss is the Reward Land adorned with Amitabha’s unsurpassed, splendid, and supreme merit and virtues. It is an unconditioned realm of Nirvana which is ineffable, beyond human language, and inconceivable to the human mind. It is a buddha’s realm, which is totally different from the conditioned realm of birth and death in the Saha world in which we live. The Saha World is produced by the collective karma of all sentient beings, who endlessly reincarnate within the Six Realms, one life after another.

In this respect, we have to believe and accept the Pure Land teaching by faith. This is the teaching spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha attempts to explain the splendor of the buddha-realm in human language with metaphors and illustrations that were compelling for his audience.

This was an extremely difficult task, and an almost impossible mission for Shakyamuni Buddha to fulfill, so the Buddha says in the sutra,

I now praise the inconceivable virtue of other buddhas, they also praise my inconceivable virtue, saying: “Shakyamuni Buddha, you have accomplished an extremely difficult and unprecedented task.”

Shakyamuni Buddha’s mission is to expound Amitabha’s teaching of deliverance

Shakyamuni Buddha further says:

In this Saha world, during the evil period of the five defilements—those of time, views, passions, sentient beings, and lifespan—you have attained the highest, perfect Enlightenment and, for the sake of sentient beings, have delivered this teaching, which is the most difficult in the world to accept in faith.

Shakyamuni Buddha tells Shariputra:

You must realize that I have accomplished this difficult task during the period of the five defilements. That is to say, having attained the highest, perfect Enlightenment, I have, for the sake of all the world, delivered this teaching, which is so hard for them to accept. This is indeed an extremely difficult task.

How can Amitabha Buddha deliver sentient beings in the ten directions with his Name, “Namo Amituofo?”

The short answer is that all buddhas of the cosmos assist Amitabha in this task. We know from the scriptures that all buddhas share the same enlightened consciousness. We also know from the Amitabha Sutra that all buddhas praise and certify the truth of Amitabha’s vows to sentient beings. In our Saha world, it was Shakyamuni Buddha who fulfilled this role, and Shakyamuni Buddha was the only person who could explain Amitabha’s deliverance to ordinary beings as he was a fully enlightened buddha.

As Shakyamuni Buddha himself said in the sutra, this was not an easy task. First of all, he had to manifest a human body in this Saha World with the five defilements. He had to attain the perfect Enlightenment and manifest a buddha’s qualities, like the 32 marks, the 80 kinds of goodness, the six paranormal powers, and so on. In addition, he had to complete his task within a single lifespan in the human world, which is extremely short when compared with a buddha’s actual life.

Secondly, Shakyamuni Buddha had to inform sentient beings that a buddha is not just a self-enlightened or self-emancipated being, but also one that is capable of emancipating all other beings who have buddha-nature. In other words, all sentient beings can equally become a buddha like Shakyamuni Buddha.

Thirdly, Shakyamuni Buddha had to inspire ordinary beings like us to believe and accept Amitabha’s teaching of deliverance, so that we might aspire to attain assured rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Shakyamuni Buddha knew that only through Amitabha’s teaching of name-recitation could ordinary beings hope to end the suffering of reincarnation (samsara) in the Saha World.

Ending suffering in the Saha World by attaining rebirth in the Land of Bliss

Endless are ordinary beings’ afflictions, so immeasurable is the Buddhist teaching. However, afflictions are conditional and unreal, so the teachings are expedient and unreal too.

That is the reason why Master Shandao said: “Shakyamuni Buddha is actually your kind and compassionate parents who provide various expedient teachings in order to arouse your unsurpassed faith,” which means to arouse the determinant faith in Amitabha’s teaching of deliverance through his Name.

Ultimately, all 84,000 teachings in the Five Vehicles are expedient. But for us ordinary beings, the Buddha simply wishes us to arouse the faith in his words and to urge us to aspire to be reborn in the Amitabha’s Pure Land, and attain assured rebirth through the exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation.

Once we determine to take Shakyamuni Buddha’s advice, which is to aspire to return to the buddhas’ home, and recite “Namo Amituofo” for the rest of our lives, Amitabha Buddha will do the rest and receive us into his Land of Bliss near the end of our lives.

With the attestation of all the buddhas, Shakyamuni Buddha wishes sentient beings to have faith in Amitabha’s Vow of Deliverance through his Name. This is not just his own original intent and Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow; it is the common wish of all buddhas of the ten directions to deliver sentient beings like us and help them to attain assured rebirth through exclusive recitation of Amitabha’s Name: Namo Amituofo!

Ultimately, all 84,000 teachings in the Five Vehicles are expedient. But for us ordinary beings, Shakyamuni Buddha simply wishes us to arouse the faith in his words and to urge us to aspire to be reborn in the Amitabha’s Pure Land, and attain assured rebirth through the exclusive practice of Amitabha-recitation.

Once we determine to take Shakyamuni Buddha’s advice, which is to aspire to return to the buddhas’ home, and recite “Namo Amituofo” for the rest of our lives, Amitabha Buddha will do the rest and receive us into his Land of Bliss near the end of life.

Related features from BDG

Shakyamuni Buddha’s Benefits of Being Reborn in the Land of Bliss
Shakyamuni Buddha’s Counsel to be Reborn in the Land of Bliss
What Prevents Us from Following and Practicing the Buddhist Teachings?

More from Teachings of Amitabha by Alan Kwan

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ATAN
ATAN
1 month ago

Namo Amituofo!