Home » Features » Does Śākyamuni Buddha Have His Own Pure Land? 释迦牟尼佛有自己的净土吗?

末世法灭之时,
特驻此经,
百年在世,
接引众生,
往生彼国。

– 释迦牟尼佛
《无量寿经》

When it is the last period of the Dharma-Ending Age [which is this era], I will specially retain this Sūtra, for one hundred more years in this world, to receive and guide sentient beings, for rebirth in that [Pure] Land [of Āmítuófó].

– Śākyamuni Buddha
(Immeasurable Life Sūtra)

Why did our fundamental teacher (本师) Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛) not create a Pure Land… or did he already do so? (Well, he already did, as taught below.) Can this world of ours be regarded as his Pure Land? Well, there are two modes of perception, that Buddhas can use to perceive any world. The first mode is with their purified perception, through which they can see all worlds as pure, reflecting their personal purity. The second mode is with our defiled perceptions, without becoming personally defiled, to see how we see, through which they can see our world as defiled, reflecting our personal defilements. 

If the Buddhas are to only perceive with the first mode, they would not be able to empathise with our suffering, and to express their compassion, to guide us with their wisdom, to be purified like them. Thus, if basing on the first mode only, to say that Śākyamuni Buddha had already made this world an actual Pure Land is inappropriate, as in an actual Pure Land, all beings in it will not be perceiving with the second mode at all, which we all clearly do now. Even if not perceiving with the first mode totally straightaway, beings in Pure Lands will definitely not perceive with the second mode, or they would be conditioned to remain defiled, or even become more so. Instead, they will perceive with ever-increasing proximity, towards fullness of the first mode.

Which world then, is Śākyamuni Buddha’s actual Pure Land? Let us look into the following parts of the 24th scroll of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra《大般涅槃经卷第二十四》for more relevant details, followed by notes on them.

尔时,光明遍照高贵德王菩萨摩诃萨言:「… 如来何故… 不修净土?」…  佛言:「… 汝今当知,我实不出阎浮提界。

At that time, King Of Bright Light’s Pervasive Illumination With Noble Virtues Bodhisattva Mahāsattva said, ‘… Why did the Thus Come One… not cultivate a Pure Land?’… The Buddha said, ‘… You now should know, that I truly did not arise from Jambudvīpa’s world [here].

譬如有人说言此界独有日月,他方世界无有日月,如是之言无有义理。若有菩萨发如是言,此佛世界秽恶不净,他方佛土清净严丽,亦复如是。

For example, if there are persons saying that only this world has a sun and moon, that other directions’ worlds are without suns and moons, such words are without reason. If there are Bodhisattvas who give rise to this statement, that this Buddha’s world is filthy and not pure, that other directions’ Buddha Lands are pure, magnificent and beautiful, this is likewise thus, [without reason].

善男子!西方去此娑婆世界,度三十二恒河沙等诸佛国土,彼有世界名曰无胜。彼土何故名曰无胜?其土所有严丽之事,皆悉平等无有差別,犹如西方安乐世界,亦如东方满月世界。

Good man! To the Western direction from this Sahā World, passing thirty-two Ganges Rivers’ sands’ of many other Buddha Lands, there is a world named “Unsurpassable”. Of that land, why is it named “Unsurpassable”? That land’s all matters, are of magnificence and beauty, all are equal, without differences, similar to that of [Amitābha Buddha’s (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó)] Western [Pure] Land Of Peace And Bliss, likewise like the [Medicine Master Buddha’s (药师佛: Yàoshīfó)] Eastern [Pure] Land Of The Full Moon.

我于彼土出现于世,为化众生故,于此界阎浮提中现转法轮。非但我身独于此中现转法轮,一切诸佛亦于此中而转法轮。… 慈氏菩萨以誓愿故,当来之世,令此世界清净庄严。以是义故,一切诸佛所有世界无不严净。」

I, from that land appeared in this life, for transforming sentient beings thus, in this world of Jambudvīpa within appearing to turn the Dharma wheel. Not only does my body alone in this world within appears to turn the Dharma wheel, all [other] Buddhas are likewise in this world within, and turn the Dharma wheel… Maitreya Bodhisattva, with his vows thus, in a future life, will enable this world to become pure and magnificent. With this meaning thus, all worlds of Buddhas are without those not magnificent and pure.’

Notes: [1] Although the terms ‘Buddha worlds’ (佛世界) and ‘Buddha lands’ (佛土) used generally can refer to any worlds where Buddhas are in, be they pure or defiled, Buddha Lands which are Pure Lands (净土), instead of defiled lands (秽土) are definitely pure, magnificent and beautiful, never filthy and not pure. [2] All Buddhas are capable of, and will accomplish Pure Lands out of defiled lands, as one of the indispensable skilful means to expedite beings’ spiritual progress towards Buddhahood.

[3] This Sahā World (娑婆世界) we are in, which is a defiled land with the much pain and suffering, is not the Unsurpassable World (无胜世界) that Śākyamuni Buddha originated from, which is a Pure Land. [4] Our world is just one of many defiled lands that he, along with all other Buddhas manifest in, to guide us to actual Pure Lands. Knowing that every single Buddha, with their perfect and complete compassion for us does so is incredibly moving, despite already having their own Pure Lands elsewhere, where they are concurrently guiding beings to Buddhahood.

[5] It is not easy to know which is farther to the West of our world – Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land or Śākyamuni Buddha’s Pure Land. The first is taught to be a hundred thousand koṭis (i.e. 十万亿: one trillion) of Buddha lands away in the Amitābha Sūtra 《阿弥陀经》, while the latter is thirty-two Ganges Rivers’ sand grains’ number of Buddha lands away. These vast distances represent our great spiritual estrangement from our Buddha-nature, which can nevertheless be closed with right spiritual practice that connects to the Buddha mindful of.

[6] Despite these two Buddhas having equally wonderful Pure Lands, while there are also countless other Pure Lands, all Buddhas, including Śākyamuni Buddha himself, will selflessly and especially praise reach of Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land. This was explained by Śākyamuni Buddha in the ‘Sūtra On Rebirth As Aspired’《随愿往生经》to be for enabling us to focus our minds, to easier attain rebirth. [7] It also accords with Amitābha Buddha’s 17th vow that ‘all immeasurable Buddhas in the worlds of the ten directions’ (十方世界无量诸佛) will ‘greatly praise and proclaim’ (咨嗟) his name. Although his Pure Land is the easiest to reach, through it, all other Pure Land are reachable.

[8] Yet to be liberated by the end of this life, we can return to this defiled land, perhaps to further purify it, or to reach a Pure Land, to purify ourselves. Of course, we should do our part to better this world now, though there are realistic limits to how much this can be done. According to Chinese Buddhist calculation, this year 2019 marks the 3045th anniversary of the Buddha’s Parinirvāṇa, which means we are already 15.45% into the Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期) which the Buddha warned of, with 8,455 years left, after which might be called the ‘Dharma-Ended Age’ (无法时期), a long period without any Dharma at all. Maitreya Bodhisattva’s arrival to become a Buddha, to further purify this world will be 5.6 billion years later, with this purification not being immediate.

[9] We can simultaneously better this world, while aspiring to reach Pure Land – to learn how best to better this world, by learning from a perfect working model example, to know exactly what this world should become. This is the most efficient way to master accomplishment of a Pure Land, to shorten the learning curve, and to minimise its steepness. With the most effective training through a Buddha in Pure Land, we will easily become great Bodhisattvas, who can most easily purify defiled lands. The faster Pure Lands are accomplished, the more beings can be easily helped. We can also first reach Pure Land by the end of this life, before aiding Maitreya Bodhisattva in purifying this world later.

[10] It is insensitive to insist Pure Land is only here and now, when many others in this world are going through the living ‘hell’ of pain and suffering, due to war, starvation, sickness and such. [11] Even having but a short glimpse of an actual Pure Land means we are still heavily defiled during all other times. We must not mistake brief personal experiences of serenity to be of an actual Pure Land. Doing so will distract ourselves from learning about, and practising to reach the actual Pure Land. It can also lead to complacency, to not better ourselves and this world for the sake of one and all, thinking we and the environment are already ‘good enough’. [12] Being attached to such short-lived ‘private’ tranquility is ultimately pointless, not at all emulating the Buddha’s great example of accomplishing an actual Pure Land, and guiding us to one.

尽摄偈    

念佛法门,
尽摄一切,
正像末法,
上中下根。

Verse On Complete Gathering

The Dharma Door of mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha [i.e. Āmítuófó], is able to completely gather all [teachings for deliverance of beings], in the Right Dharma, Dharma-Resemblance and Dharma-Ending Ages, be they of higher, average or lower spiritual roots.

Related Articles:

Why Be Particularly Mindful Of One Buddha?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/03/why-be-particularly-mindful-of-one-buddha
Why Not Seek Birth In Tuṣita Heaven?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/04/7-why-not-seek-birth-in-tusita-heaven

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