If there are sentient beings, who hear of this teaching,
they should aspire, to be born in that land.
- Amitabha Sutra 阿弥陀经 (The Buddha)
Who has been to Amituofo’s Pure Land (Amitabha Buddha’s pure realm manifested from his perfect compassion and wisdom for guiding beings to liberation) and back? How do we know if it really exists? Well, if someone not particularly special in any way tells us he had been to Pure Land and back, we will tend to doubt him. If he describes Pure Land as it is already described in the sutras taught by the Buddha, we will wonder what is the point of listening to his repeated description. However, if he describes Pure Land in ways not described in the sutras, we will doubt him all the more. Yet, there are especially great masters, such as the 13th Pure Land Patriarch Master Yinguang, who expounded on the Pure Land teachings in detail… because he was indeed from Pure Land, being a manifestation of Dashizhi Pusa (Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva) from Pure Land. The best proof of this identity, as revealed after his departure, are his great abilities and efforts to encourage countless to practise the Pure Land teachings effectively. There are some who have direct visions of Pure Land when they practise well. Those who have been reborn in Pure Land and returned after training would be Bodhisattvas, who will never reveal their identities just for attention, but let their Dharma teachings and exemplary actions speak for their worth. This is in line with Shakyamuni Buddha’s strict instructions in the Surangama Sutra as below, given out of great compassion and wisdom to avoid the prevalence of false claims for selfish gain in terms of fame and fortune, while confusing the masses with false ‘Dharma’ teachings -
‘After my Parinirvana, I decree that all Bodhisattvas and Arhats, are to manifest bodily forms to be born in that midst of the Dharma Ending Age [which is our era now], creating various forms, to liberate all [beings] from the cycle [of birth and death]. Perhaps as sramanas [monastics], white-robed laypersons, human kings, officials, young boys or young girls. As such, even as prostitutes, widows, thieves or butchers, with them working together, praising the Buddha vehicle [for Buddhahood], enabling their bodies and minds to enter samadhi [meditative concentration]. To the end, never personally saying oneself is truly a Bodhisattvas, or truly an Arhats, [which is] leaking the Buddha’s secret [skilful hidden] cause, [by] speaking carelessly to those yet to learn [the Dharma well]. Only with the exception of at the end of life, can there be secret [discreet] bequeathing [to inspire one 'last' time]. How can such ones delude or confuse sentient beings, or create great false speech?… As I have said, is named the Buddhas’ speech [teaching]. [If] not as thus said, [it] is Papiyan’s [Mara: the evil one] speech.’
Following this rule, when we look around in the ‘spiritual marketplace’ today, those who egoistically claim to be ‘supreme’ or ‘true’ ‘masters’ and ‘Buddhas’ are straightaway not even proper disciples of the Buddha, much less to say, qualified representatives of his teachings. The limitless manifestations urged as skilful means for reaching out include any possible identity other than as enlightened beings.
Back to the opening questions, the truth is, even if there is no Pure Land, mindfulness of Buddha has to, by default, lead to the best rebirth as we ride upon his merits, as there is no safer or more meritorious subject for mindfulness of, especially on the deathbed, than a Buddha with perfect compassion and wisdom. (Amituofo was spoken of by Shakyamuni Buddha in close to 300 sutras.) Those who practise mindfulness of Buddha very well can depart for Pure Land at will before becoming old, sick and/or dying; when healthy, young and thus very much alive instead. From ancient history to this modern day, there continues to be increase in already innumerable records of sincere practitioners who have done so. They manifest many classic auspicious signs of birth in Pure Land while departing very blissfully, joyfully citing the arrival of Amituofo or sight of Pure Land. Such passing must karmically lead to the most blissful realm they aspire to reach – Pure Land. Some give way ahead yet accurate announcements of their departure dates and times too. This is very powerful evidence for the efficacy of Pure Land practice because for ordinary beings, with the Three Poisons of strong attachment (to samsaric life), aversion (to dying) and delusion (of the afterlife), it is impossible to calmly and clearly know and say when they will depart, if not, as testified by them, due to having been personally informed by Amituofo of when he will arrive to guide them to his Pure Land. These advance notices are also Amituofo’s skilful means to continually inspire us to have greater faith in him and his Pure Land!
If good men and good women hear [learn] of Amita Buddha [Amitabha Buddha; Amituofo], firmly upholds [practise mindfulness of] his name… single-mindedly [wholeheartedly] and without confusion [being scattered], for these persons, when approaching the end of life, Amita Buddha, with an assembly of noble [holy] beings, will appear before them. When their lives end, their minds will not be inverted, and they will immediately attain rebirth in Amita Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. (若有善男子善女人，闻说阿弥陀佛，执持名号… 一心不乱，其人临命终时，阿弥陀佛，与诸圣众，现在其前。是人终时，心不颠倒，即得往生阿弥陀佛极乐国土.)
- Amitabha Sutra 阿弥陀经 (The Buddha)
The Faith Factor: Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land
The 48 Great Vows Of Amituofo: Boundless Blessings For This Life & The Next
Are The Enlightened Among Us Now?
The Path To Non-Retrogression Starts Now