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The Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land

Written by Sui Dynasty’s Tiantai Tradition’s Great Master Zhizhe (538–597 CE)
Translated to English by Upāsaka Shen Shi’an (2014 CE)
[This improved version replaces previous versions]

疑: 偏念一佛疑
The Third Doubt: Doubt Of Particular Mindfulness Of One Buddha

问: 「十方诸佛,一切净土,法性平等,功德亦等。行者普念一切功德,生一切净土。今乃偏求一佛净土,与平等性乖。云何生净土?」

Question: All Buddhas of the ten directions,50 and all their Pure Lands, have Dharma-Nature51 that is equal, with their meritorious virtues likewise equal. Practitioners [should be] universally mindful of all their meritorious virtues, for birth in all these Pure Lands. Now then, to particularly seek [birth in] one Buddha’s Pure Land, this contradicts with the nature of equality.52 Why seek birth in [Amitā(bha) Buddha’s (Amituofo)] Pure Land?


Answer: All Buddha Lands, in reality, are all equal. However, sentient beings’ spiritual roots are dull, and those defiled and scattered53 are many. If not with focused fastening of one’s mind on one subject,54 Samādhi is difficult to accomplish.


Focused mindfulness of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo] is One Form Samādhi. With their minds focused wholeheartedly,55 they will attain birth in that [Pure] Land [of his].


As the Sūtra On Rebirth As Aspired says, ‘Universal Vastness Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “The ten directions all have Pure Lands. Why does the World-Honoured One56 particularly praise the Western Pure Land of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo], with focus on sending sentient beings to be reborn there?”


The Buddha told Universal Vastness Bodhisattva, “Sentient beings of Jambudvīpa57 have minds that are much defiled and scattered. Due to this, there is particular praise of one Buddha’s Pure Land in the West, to enable all sentient beings to focus their minds on one subject,58 and easily attain rebirth [in that Pure Land].

若总念一切佛者,念佛境宽,则心散漫,三昧难成,故不得往生。」 』

If generally mindful of all Buddhas, as the subjects for mindfulness of [all] Buddhas are broad, their minds will thus be scattered,59 and Samādhi is difficult to accomplish, thus not attaining rebirth [in any Pure Land].”’


Moreover, to seek one Buddha’s meritorious virtues and all Buddhas’ meritorious virtues is without difference, as they are of the same one Buddha’s60 Dharma-Nature. Due to this, mindfulness of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo] is mindfulness of all Buddhas. Birth in one Pure Land is birth in all Pure Lands.


Thus, the Flower Adornment Sūtra61 says, ‘All Buddhas’ bodies are one Buddha’s body.60 Of one mind and one wisdom, their powers62 and fearlessnesses63 are likewise so.’


Moreover, it says, ‘For example, the pure full moon, universally manifests on all waters. Although its images are immeasurable, the original moon has not been two. Thus is the unobstructed wisdom, accomplished in [unsurpassable] equally perfect enlightenment.64 Responding by manifesting in all lands, the Buddha’s body60 does not have a second one.’


Wise ones, with this analogy, will attain understanding. If wise ones are able to understand that all moon images are one moon’s image, and one moon’s image is all moon images, as the moon and its images are not two, thus [will they understand that] one Buddha60 is all Buddhas, and all Buddhas are one Buddha, as the Dharma Body60 is not two. Thus, when diligently mindful of one Buddha, it is to be mindful of all Buddhas.


50 Everywhere in all directions: East, South, West, North, Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, Northwest, below and above
51 Qualities of truth (wisdom), compassion and merits (meritorious virtues)
52 … and equanimity
53 … as confused by the five defilements (See Note 5 on Page 13)
54 … with utmost sincerity (wholeheartedness and single-mindedness)
55 … to develop utmost sincerity single-mindedly
56 An honorific title of the Buddha, here referring to Śākyamuni Buddha
57 Southern continent of our world; here
58 Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)
59 … thus unfocused and undisciplined
60 Dharmakāya: The universal body of truth of all Buddhas that pervades all space and time
61 Mahā Vaipulya Buddhāvataṃsaka Sūtra 大方广佛华严经; Avataṃsaka Sūtra
62 Ten Powers (十力) exclusive to Buddhas: Complete knowledge of all [1] conditions’ rights and wrongs [2] karma of past, present and future [3] stages of meditation, concentration and liberation [4] capacities and future attainments [5] desires and inclinations [6] natures and conditions [7] actions’ effects [8] past lives and their causes [9] future lives and their causes [10] eradication of afflictions, delusions and habits
63 Four Fearlessnesses (四无畏) exclusive to Buddhas: Fearlessness in declaration of [1] complete enlightenment to truth of all phenomena (omniscience) [2] eradication of all afflictions from craving and delusion (perfection of character) [3] all hindrances that obstruct Buddhahood (for overcoming of all obstacles) [4] right path to end all suffering (to attain full liberation; omnibenevolence)
64 无上正等正觉 (See Note 37 on Page 25)

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