The Central Practicality Of Pure Land Buddhism


–  净土宗六祖永明延寿大师 | 

Without Chán and with Pure Land practice, of ten thousand cultivators, ten thousand persons will go to Pure Land. If attaining sight of Amitābha Buddha, why worry about not awakening?

– Pure Land Tradition’s 6th Patriarch Great Master Yǒngmíng Yánshòu |Dharma Eye (Fǎyǎn) Tradition’s 3rd Patriarch Chán Master Yǒngmíng
(Chán And Pure Land’s Fourfold Explanations)

[T]his is a realm permeated by inescapable suffering and dissatisfaction, and there exists a [more ‘conventional’] way that leads to final escape. What is it? Renunciation of everything and everyone and a life of impossibly difficult learning and practice. It is a path that almost no householder could consider a live option. The renouncers might say that they should do the best they can and continue their almsgiving, since the merit accrued in this way might put them in a better position to follow the path in a future life.

This is risky. Few people remember their past lives, and they have no reason to think that they will remember the deeds and intentions of the present life after they have passed once again through the the disruption of rebirth. A demand for a path to liberation that does not require complete renunciation would serve them better and more reliably, and odds are very good that at some point creative religious thinkers will devise a suitable program for the ordinary householder… In Buddhism, Pure Land met this demand…

In the end, the chance for salvation that Pure Land proffered was more than enough to counterbalance all the arguments that detractors marshaled against it. The assurance one had that the simple practice of Nianfo/Nenbutsu would ‘summon’ Amitābha Buddha to take one from one’s deathbed to the Pure Land, and from there unstoppably to Buddhahood, is so appealing that Pure Land permeates all aspects of East Asian Buddhist life… If one wishes to understand Buddhist life in East Asia, one must learn about Pure Land.

Charles B. Jones

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