May I, when approaching, almost at life’s end, completely eradicate all obstacles, to personally meet that Buddha Amitā[bha], and immediately attain rebirth in his Land Of Peace And Bliss.
– Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter)
Is it so, that at the end of this life, if aspiring to meet a greatly enlightened one, so as to learn from him, one can either aspire to meet an existing (ancient) Buddha (such as Amitābha Buddha [阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó] in his Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss [西方极乐世界]), or a future Buddha (such as Maitreya Bodhisattva [弥勒菩萨] in the Tuṣita Heaven’s Inner Court [兜率内院])? To those yet to study the sūtras carefully, it might seem so. However, the best of both worlds can be experienced without any disadvantage when we look closely at the following excerpt from the ‘Flower Adornment [i.e. Avataṃsaka] Sūtra’s Universal Virtue [Samantabhadra Bodhisattva] Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter’《华严经普贤行愿品》:
[Sūtra]: [Universal Virtue Bodhisattva]: In one kṣaṇa within, immediately attaining rebirth in the Land Of Ultimate Bliss. Reaching already, immediately seeing Amitā[bha] Buddha, Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva, Universal Virtue Bodhisattva, Contemplating With Ease Bodhisattva, Maitreya Bodhisattva and others. These all Bodhisattvas, with physical forms upright, and meritorious virtues complete, for them together surround.
[Note 1]: With right and proficient practice, all can be swiftly born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, to instantly meet not just Āmítuófó, but also the great Bodhisattvas listed, who respectively personify the great and perfect Wisdom, Practice, Compassion and Loving-kindness of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
[Note 2]: The ‘others’ should include Kṣitigarbha [i.e. Earth Treasury] Bodhisattva, who personifies great and perfect Vows or Aspirations. This can be known with the following excerpt from the ‘Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’ (Dùnhuáng Treasury Version)《佛说地藏菩萨经》(炖煌藏本):
[经]:【释迦牟尼佛】: 若有善男子善女人… 念地藏菩萨名，此人定得往生西方极乐世界… 此人舍命之日，地藏菩萨亲自来迎，常得与地藏菩萨共同一处。
[Sūtra]: [Śākyamuni Buddha]: If there are good men and good women… mindful of Earth Treasury Bodhisattva’s name [with profound Faith (深信) and sincere Aspiration (切愿)], these persons will definitely attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss… These persons, on the days they renounce their lives, will have Earth Treasury Bodhisattva personally come to welcome them, and they always be able to be with Earth Treasury Bodhisattva together in one place.
[Note 3]: The immediate excerpt above implies that not only does Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva guides beings to Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, he can also be met there, since they can constantly be with him. This ‘one place’ for gathering cannot be elsewhere, such as a hell, unless one is already functioning like a great Bodhisattva like him. Of course, all the great Bodhisattvas, despite being present in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land to inspire and teach beings there with their majestic presence and example, are also capable of concurrently manifesting many forms elsewhere in other realms, to guide other beings, including to Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, to most swiftly expedite their progress towards Buddhahood.
[Note 4]: A Bodhisattva listed in the first excerpt, who might be missed with cursory reading, is Maitreya Bodhisattva, who will become the next Buddha in our Sahā World, about 5.67 billion years later. If we reread the two sūtra excerpts for combined understanding, they teach that we can meet the most famous ancient Buddha, Āmítuófó, along with the renowned Four Great Bodhisattvas (四大菩萨) (who represent the four cardinal virtues of Buddhahood – Compassion, Wisdom, Vows and Practice), who are all future Buddhas, along with Maitreya Bodhisattva – all in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land!
Such is the splendid nature of Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, as a ‘grand central station’, a ‘one-stop solution’, through which all the best spiritual role models can be met. As such, of course it offers the swiftest path to accomplishment of Buddhahood. These great Bodhisattvas are not only personally attracted to reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, they personally attract us to reach it with their example of reaching it, and with their presence there.
[Note 5]: Although being the easiest Pure Land to enter (with the Three Provisions of profound Faith, sincere Aspiration and true Practice [实行] of mindfulness of his name), through Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, as assured in his vows, it is possible to access anywhere with great ease, be it a defiled land or another Pure Land, be it in person, or by sight and sound with ‘heavenly’ (or ‘divine’) eyes and ears. This means any other Pure Land that one is curious about can be visited. Other than meeting Maitreya Bodhisattva in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, his other ‘version’ in currently in Tuṣita can be met too. After birth in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, we can easily travel to and fro. We can also train via Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, before joining Maitreya Bodhisattva’s assembly when he manifests Buddhahood.
[Note 6]: Maitreya Bodhisattva’s presence in some key sūtra assemblies associated with Āmítuófó, such as that of the ‘Amitābha Sūtra’《阿弥陀经》and the ‘Immeasurable Life Sūtra’《无量寿经》, are reminders that he too received the Pure Land teachings. Being the next Buddha in our world, he had to learn how to adorn a Buddha Land, and to guide beings to a Pure Land, as our world when he manifests Buddhahood will still not be a Pure Land. He was also specifically entrusted with Āmítuófó’s Pure Land teachings by Śākyamuni Buddha in the ‘Immeasurable Life Sūtra’, for both practice and teaching accordingly, now and in the future. (The next excerpts continue from the first.)
[Sūtra]: Those persons will personally see themselves born from lotus flowers within, to receive the Buddha’s predictions. Having attained predictions already, passing of innumerable thousands’ millions’ koṭis’ nayutas of kalpas, universally in the ten directions’ unspeakably unspeakable worlds, with wisdom’s power, according to sentient beings’ minds then, for benefiting them. Not long after, they will sit at the Bodhimaṇḍa, subdue māras’ armies, accomplish Equal And Right Awakening, and turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. [Note: 1 koṭi is about 10 million. 1 nayuta is about 100 billion.]
[Note 7]: With transformed births from lotuses that represent purity, all who have reached Āmítuófó’s Pure Land will be able to receive confirmation of when they will most appropriately manifest Buddhahood. In the mean time, even if there is much space and time in between, immeasurable beings can be benefitted with the Dharma, as empowered by Āmítuófó, as part of perfecting Bodhisattva practice. Before long, which is as swiftly as possible, all will be ready for Buddhahood. As such, the path of practice through Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is the swiftest for Buddhahood, for both oneself and everyone else.
[Sūtra]: Able to enable Buddha lands’ extremely fine dust motes’ number of worlds’ sentient beings, to give rise to the Bodhi Mind. According to their roots and natures, teaching and transforming to mature them, and even exhausting of future kalpas’ ocean, extensively able to benefit all sentient beings.
[Note 8]: Having become Buddhas, we will be able to timelessly guide even more beings of more worlds to give rise to the aspiration for Buddhahood, with the ultimate skilful means. As the path to Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is suitable for all beings, be they of higher, average or lower spiritual capacities, all can be benefitted by reaching it, to progress accordingly there towards Buddhahood without fail. All Buddhas’ unanimous praise in the ‘Amitābha Sūtra’ and the great Bodhisattvas’ congregation there bear the most qualified and thus highest collective testimony to this.
[Note 9]: It is a misconception that reaching Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is ‘harder’ than Tuṣita Heaven’s Inner Court, due to ‘need’ to give rise to Bodhicitta (菩提心) the conventional way – as it is not a must, although having it now can directly lead to a higher grade of birth there. According to the ‘Contemplation Sūtra’《观经》, those yet to give rise to Bodhicitta will definitely be able to do so fully there. Again, all needed to enter Āmítuófó’s Pure Land are the Three Provisions. As the Pure Land is a trillion worlds to the West, it is also mistaken to be ‘hard’ to reach, although it is reachable within an instant, once connected to Āmítuófó, by being mindful of his name, ‘wholeheartedly without being scattered’ (一心不乱), which is simply being ‘utmostly sincere’, not needing a highly concentrated meditative state.
[Note 10]: It is also a misconception that Tuṣita Heaven’s Inner Court is ‘easier’ to reach, due to thinking that the key criteria is simply ‘more positive karma’, as there is the question of how much is enough. The Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师) taught that [in this moral-declining era], it is easier to be reborn in Pure Land than as humans, [due to Āmítuófó’s Other-powered (他力) support, which also makes it is easier to reach his Pure Land than any heaven]. As Tuṣita is within the same Desire Realm (欲界) we are in now, it is also mistaken to be ‘easy’ to reach, although having a clear-cut Aspiration to transcend all Three Realms (三界), which includes the Desire Realm, with the direct reception and guidance (接引) of Āmítuófó is both easier and safer. Above are some reasons why Āmítuófó’s Pure Land is a favourite destination for many Buddhists.
I, then reborn in that land already, will presently manifest accomplishment of these ten great vows, all perfectly and completely, without exception, to bring benefits and joy to all sentient beings’ realms.
– Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter)
How Maitreya Bodhisattva Gave Rose To The Aspiration To Be Born In Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land
Why Great Bodhisattvas Seek Birth In Pure Land Too
The Eight Great Bodhisattvas’ Connections With Amitābha Buddha
Have Guānyīn Bodhisattva As An Excellent Friend
Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva’s Verses Of Aspiration For Birth In Pure Land
Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s Link With Āmítuófó
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Aspiration When Approaching Death
Is Bodhicitta A Must For Birth In Āmítuófó’s Pure Land?
Why Not Seek Birth In Tuṣita Heaven?
Why Is It Easier To Reach Pure Land Than To Retain Human Rebirth?
How Do Niànfó Practitioners Reach Āmítuófó’s Pure Land?
Is Amitābha Buddha’s Pure Land Easier To Reach Than Tuṣita’s Inner Court?
The Tenth Great Vow: Universally Dedicating (Of Universal Virtue’s Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter)