… 东[/南/西/北/下/上]方世界，有… 佛，如是等恒河沙数诸佛… 说诚实言：汝等众生，当信是称赞不可思议功德，一切诸佛所护念经。
– 释迦牟尼佛: 一切诸佛所护念经 (阿弥陀经)
… in the eastern [/ southern/ western/ northern/ below/ above] direction[s], there are… Buddha[s], and all other such Buddhas, as numerous as the Ganges river’s sands… speaking these truthful words, “You and other beings, should have faith in this ‘Sūtra With Praises Of Inconceivable Meritorious Virtues And All Buddhas’ Mindful Protection’.”
– Śākyamuni Buddha: Sūtra With All Buddha’s Mindful Protection (Amitābha Sūtra)
In almost 300 interconnected sūtras discovered to date, including the famous Amitābha Sūtra, Śākyamuni Buddha and 38 Buddhas of all directions, who represent every single other Buddha, strongly urge us to aspire for birth in Amitābha Buddha’s (Amituofo) Pure Land. Just as unenlightened Buddhists with limited meritorious virtues and wisdom like us strive hard to create conducive, though still imperfect environments, such as temples and centres in our spiritually and physically defiled world to facilitate study, practice and propagation of the Buddha’s teachings, of course, all the more so, the Buddhas will do the same elsewhere for the same purpose. The splendid Dharma schools they have created are called Pure Lands, as adorned with their immeasurable meritorious virtues and wisdom, full of maximised skilful means to guide us as swiftly as possible and without retrogression, progressing towards Buddhahood without fail. However, due to our lack of pure karmic qualifications, these Pure Lands cannot be supplanted upon our defiled worlds.
Clearly knowing our current limitations, the Buddhas thus encourage us to be born in their Pure Lands, so as to be able to learn from them personally, and to use their bountiful blessings directly to better help other beings. As there are immeasurable Pure Lands due to the existence of immeasurable Buddhas, it is perfectly natural that, out of great compassion and wisdom, so as to not confuse us with too many choices, and to best guide us, they will streamline their efforts in most readily and most often urging us to seek birth in what they agree to be the most universally praiseworthy Pure Land. As we can see in the Amitābha Sūtra, this one Pure Land is Amituofo’s Pure Land. Yet, despite such obvious focused efforts to highlight his Pure Land to best help us focus our spiritual direction, there are some with serious misunderstandings of the Buddhas’ intentions, who either claim that not a single Pure Land exists, or that Amituofo’s Pure Land is not worthy.
On this, the Eighth Patriarch Of The Pure Land Tradition Great Master Lianchi (净土宗八祖莲池大师) has this serious admonition to share – ‘Herein, there is a person, who in a day speaks ten thousand words, to slander ten thousand Buddhas, accumulating fully so for one thousand years. This person’s karmic misgivings are immeasurable and boundless. Yet again, there is a person, who speaks one evil word, slandering that there is no Pure Land, which obstructs people from practising mindfulness of Buddha [Amituofo]. This person’s karmic misgivings surpasses the previous person’s by a hundred of thousand of ten thousand times, even up to that incalculable. Why is this so? Numerous as motes of dust, all Buddhas praise the Western [Pure Land of Amituofo], only desiring everyone to accomplish Buddhahood, yet you alone gives rise to slander, which is to slander Tathāgatas [Buddhas] everywhere as numerous as motes of dust, trapping and harming sentient beings, who thus constantly sink in the sea of suffering, and not attain accomplishment of Buddhahood.’ (‘于此有人，日出万言，以谤万佛，积满千岁，是人罪业无量无边。而复有人出一恶言，拨无净土，阻人念佛，是人罪业，过于前人百千万倍，乃至无算。何以故？ 微尘诸佛，赞叹西方，惟欲人人成佛，汝独生谤，即是遍谤微尘如来，陷害众生，常沉苦海，不得成佛。’)
As all Buddhas’ key concern is to most efficiently guide all to Buddhahood, and since there is no means more skilful than a Pure Land, to slander or belittle the Pure Land teachings out of lack of understanding or misunderstanding is thus especially grave. If done with wilful malice and prideful reluctance to realise and repent for one’s mistakes, the potential deprivation of others from the safest and best rebirths can possibly lead to personal rebirth in a lower realm. While it is natural to doubt and enquire of a teaching less familiar with, it is unwise to oneself and uncompassionate to others to discount any precious teaching with one’s skewed perceptions, which are often gathered from others less proficient in that teaching, whose careless misrepresentative remarks on the most widely cherished and practised Mahāyāna tradition might spread like wildfire, wrecking damage that cannot be undone. It is difficult to imagine how easily such terrible negative karma can grow and spin out of control.
How then, can we help those who already slander, and those on the verge of slandering the Pure Land teachings? As Stonepeace put it, ‘If encountering those who are ignorant or without [actual] intention [to slander], we can encourage them to sincerely learn the Pure Land teachings, such that they can understand them. If a slanderer does not aspire to learn to understand the teachings, we can use the Eighth Patriarch Of The Pure Land Tradition Great Master Lianchi’s words [above] to inform them, for understanding [the gravity of their slander].’ (‘若遇无知无心者，可劝用心学即知。若谤者不愿学知，可用莲祖言告知。’) In history, there are some great masters from various Buddhist traditions, who have previously belittled the Pure Land teachings, imagining them to be simplistic, before realising their profundity later, thus expressing repentance for their mistakes, by committing to deep study, practice and propagation of the Pure Land teachings as the direct remedial action. This is surely the best way to make up for one’s slander!
… 若有… 闻是经受持者… 皆为一切诸佛之所护念，皆得不退转于阿耨多罗三藐三菩提。… 汝等皆当信受我语，及诸佛所说。
– 释迦牟尼佛: 佛说阿弥陀经
… if there are [those]… who hear this sūtra, accept and uphold it… all these good men and good women will, by all Buddhas, be mindfully protected, and all will attain non-retrogression for [attaining] Anuttara Samyak Saṁbodhi [Unsurpassable Equally Perfect Enlightenment; Buddhahood]. … you and all others should faithfully accept my words, and what all Buddhas speak.
– Śākyamuni Buddha: The Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amitā Buddha (Amitābha Sūtra)
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