The supreme and endless blessings of Samantabhadra’s deeds,
I now universally transfer,
May every living being, drowning and adrift,
Soon return to the Land of Limitless Light! [Amituofo's Pure Land]
~ Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Vow #10)
Many people following the current fashion of Zen think of it as the supreme Dharma. They look down on Pure Land and do not practice it. Because they delight in fame, they learn some words and sentences from ancient sages so that they can talk smoothly and eulogize one another. The urge to enter the Dharma doors (i.e., to cultivate) is in decline. These people not only lack real practice, they even deprecate the Mahayana sutras, claiming that the sutras are mere words and need not be read. Though such persons may have some mundane knowledge, they cannot save themselves. It is really terrible. Most of them do not understand the Mahayana sutras, do not understand that there are many expedient methods for teaching sentient beings, do not know the meaning of the expression: “Everything returns to oneness, but there are many expedient methods that lead us to an understanding of the Truth.” They only know that the Zen Patriarchs stressed Awakening. Yet the original intent of the awakened mind is to end Birth and Death. Is this not also the very purpose of Buddha Recitation?
Many Zen practitioners fail to escape the cycle of Birth and Death, while Pure Land followers find it easy to escape that cycle [by seeking birth in Pure Land first, where Enlightenment is guaranteed by learning in the best environment from the best enlightened teachers]. What is the reason for this? It is because to practice Zen, you must stop the thought process, while to recite the Buddha’s name, you must concentrate on pure thoughts. Since sentient beings have been mired in false thinking for untold eons, it is very difficult to detach themselves from it [and thus end the thought process]. Buddha Recitation, on the other hand, changes impure thoughts to pure thoughts, fighting poison with poison to purify one’s own thoughts. Therefore, in Zen practice it is difficult to attain Awakening, while Buddha Recitation makes it easy to reach that goal. If you really want to end Birth and Death in one lifetime, concentrate on Buddha Recitation. There is no need to worry any further.
People today think of the Dharma of Pure Land as an expedient teaching [skilful means]. Little do they realize that it is also a wonderful teaching. Take the Great Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, whose teaching encompasses the whole Dharma Realm (cosmos). He made ten Great Vows directed toward the Pure Land. The Patriarch Asvaghosa relied on numerous Mahayana sutras to write the Treatise on the Awakening of the Faith, showing sentient beings the way to the Pure Land. Zen patriarchs in China are involved in transmission of the lamp (Mind-to-Mind transmission). While they may not always refer to the Pure Land, if after becoming awakened and bringing an end to the cycle of Birth and Death, they do not turn to the Pure Land, would that not be nihilism? The eminent Zen Master Yung-Ming collected passages from the entire Tripitaka (Buddhist Canon) demonstrating that to point to the Mind is to return to the Pure Land. During the Dharma-Ending Age, many Zen masters glorify the Western Pure Land. Moreover, the Pure Land Dharma was preached by Sakyamuni Buddha himself without being requested and is extolled by all Buddhas throughout the Ten Directions [as stated in the Amitabha Sutra]. Are not the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Patriarchs more worthy than a few defiled sentient beings?
Pure Land of the Patriarchs: Zen Master Han-Shan on Pure Land Buddhism
Sutra Translation Committee of US & Canada
Is Pure Land Here or There, Now or Later?