Principal Teachings of The True Sect of Pure Land, by Yejitsu Okusa, , at sacred-texts.com
In the True Sect of Pure Land, we have the true, all-embracing love of Amida to save all beings from ignorance and pain. It is the net of boundless compassion thrown by the Buddha's own hand into the sea of misery, in which the ignorant rather than the wise, the sinful rather than the good, are meant to be gathered up. This love and compassion is eternally abiding with the Buddha, whose will to save all
beings knows no temporal limitations; and on this account the Buddha is called Amitāyus (Eternal Life). His power to save is manifest in his light. Though invisible to our defiled eyes, this light is constantly shedding its rays upon all sentient beings ever leading us onward to the awakening of faith. Those who have awakened this faith in the love of Amida which saves, are at once embraced in his light and destined to be born in Pure Land after death. This light is the will of Amida under whose merciful care all beings are made to grow; it reaches every part of the universe, knowing no spatial limitations. Therefore, the Buddha is also called Amitābha (Infinite Light). His will to save is, thus, infinite not only in time but in space, hence his two attributes, Amitāyus and Amitābha. In China and Japan, he is briefly known as Amida, meaning the Infinite.
Amida is the Father of all beings;
he is the Only One; he has, from the very beginning of all things, been contriving to save the world, and once incarnated himself in the person of Dharmākara Bhikshu to deliver the message of happiness among us. Amida made the Bhikshu invoke forty-eight vows as recorded in the Amitāyus-sūtra, the main idea of which is that "I will make every one enjoy a rebirth in Pure Land if he listen to my name and believe in my will to save and rejoice in it." It is said that, before making this wish, the Bhikshu cogitated for a period of five kalpas; that, in order to fulfil the wish, he accumulated innumerable merits by practising the six virtues for innumerable kalpas with a heart full of love and compassion and free from all defilement; and, finally, that the fulfilment of this vow took place ten kalpas ago. Amida is now summoning us to his Land of Purity by showing us his name that saves.
This world of ours is a defiled world filled with sin and suffering; neither the wise nor the ignorant are free from sin, the noble as well as the poor are suffering from pain. He that declares himself to be sinless must be either an insane man or an idiot. Even when, judging from our own ignorant conditions, we imagine ourselves happy, we may be deceiving ourselves; for in the Buddha's eye our apparent happiness may be a real pain. In such a world of impurity as this, it is impossible to find a true state of peace and happiness. Fame, wealth, love, learning,—so many evils are ever leading us downward into the abyss of utter darkness. Where can we then find a region which harbors no pain? There stands Amida pointing to his Land of Purity and Happiness (Sukhāvatī), where our worldly sufferings and tribulations are no more. In this land there always smiles the spring of peace. No pain, no sin,
but all beauty, goodness, and joy. Those born there enjoy a happiness that knows no ending; they are endowed not only with infinite wisdom and liberty, but with pure love and compassion which has the power to save all beings from the world of pain. All this happiness enjoyed by those who are in Pure Land is the outcome of Amida's love and will to save.
Amida thus grudges nothing for our deliverance from sin; with various contrivances, good and excellent, he ever leads us to the way of salvation, and it is through his grace that we have in ourselves the reason of salvation and are allowed to enjoy its fulfilment. Now, Amida has two ways of showing his grace towards us: the one is called the "wōsō yekō," which means that the Buddha supplies us not only with the cause of our rebirth in Pure Land, but with its result; and the other is called the "gensō yekō," meaning that
he confers upon us the power to come back to this world of pain even after our rebirth in Pure Land, in order to deliver our fellow-beings from sufferings. In the "wōsō yekō" there are four things to be distinguished, which are teaching, practice, faith, and attainment. The following scheme will make us understand this better:
The Wōsō yekō
1. Teaching, as set forth in the Amitāyus-sūtra (in two volumes).
2. Practice, or reciting the name of Amida.
3. Faith, or believing in his will to save…
4. Attainment, or being born in Pure Land and becoming a Buddha…
The Gensō yekō
Coming back to the world of suffering to save the fellow-beings
This will be explained more in detail:
The Teaching. Amida once assumed a human form and appeared on earth
in order to save us from sin and ignorance; and Shākyamuni was he. The most important of all his teachings is the Amitāyus-sūtra translated into Chinese in two volumes, 252 A.D., in which is brought forth the true signification of salvation by Amida. In fact, the very object of his appearance on earth was to teach this sūtra and to establish the foundation of the True Sect of Pure Land. In other words, therefore, we can say that the True Sect is the direct revelation of Amida Buddha.
The Practice. We are now acquainted with the name of Amida according to the discourse by Shākyamuni, and we know that in this name is embodied the significance of Amida's will to save; for to hear the name is to hear the voice of salvation, saying, "Trust in me, for I will surely save you,"—a word coming directly from Amida. Such, indeed, being the sense embodied in
the name of Amida, we must express deep feeling of gratitude by reciting his name as he wills when we have been able to hear the call of our Father so full of love and compassion. In Sanskrit, the recitation runs: "Namo ’mitāyushe Buddhāya" or "Namo ’mitabhāya Buddhāya," but in Japanese briefly "Namu Amida Bu."
While all other deeds of ours are more or less defiled, the reciting of "Namu Amida Bu" is an act free from impurities; for it is not we that recite it, but Amida himself, who, giving us his own name, makes us recite it.
The Faith. When we hear the name of Amida, we cannot help but believe in the certainty of our salvation, and this belief, too, comes from the grace of Amida. For (1) when we come to think of his will to save, we are unable to deceive ourselves as to our inner life full of falsehoods, and to behave as if we were thoroughly wise. This must
be, because the will of Amida, pure and free from falsehood, descends upon us.
(2) The moment we hear the name of the Buddha and surrender ourselves to his will, we grow convinced of our own salvation through his grace and gain peace of mind; this will, however, be impossible, if not for the fact that Amida's will to save everyone who enters into his love affirms itself in us.
(3) The moment we believe in our salvation through his grace, we awake within ourselves a desire to be born in his Pure Land, and are happy in the conviction that it will be done as we desire. This must be due to the influence upon us of Amida's overflowing love which invites us to join him in Pure Land. Therefore, we conclude that, that we come to rely upon Amida for our salvation is entirely due to his grace and not to personal efforts. Indeed, this feeling of dependence, or this faith in Amida, is no more nor
less than his own will.
The Attainment. The instant the belief is confirmed in our salvation through Amida, our destiny is settled that we are to be reborn in Pure Land and become a Buddha. Then it is said that we are all embraced in the light of Amitābha, and, living under his loving guidance, our life after the confirmation of faith is but filled with joy unspeakable, which is a gift of the Buddha. Then we have no need to pray the gods or Buddhas for more happiness in this life; for are we not already enjoying all the happiness that could be obtained here? If we still have to suffer misfortune, it is the outcome of evil deeds committed by ourselves in the past; and this no amount of praying will remove. It is only after our rebirth in the Land of Happiness that we are allowed to lead a life absolutely free from pain.
At the end of our earthly life, we
cast aside every trace of this defiled existence; and upon being born in the Land of Purity and Happiness, we attain to the enlightenment of the Buddha. And it is not necessary at this moment of rebirth to keep our last thoughts on earth in tranquillity, and wait for the coming of the Buddha to take us into his country. As we have already been living encircled by the rays of Amitābha Buddha, however disturbed our last moments, we are sure to be led into Pure Land through the mysterious operation of the Buddha's light.
The Land of Happiness is the garden of Nirvana. Those who are born there, gain the great enlightenment of Nirvana, enjoy a life everlasting, and are forever free from the bondage of birth and death. Not only this, they are then able to manifest themselves over and over again in the world of suffering in order to deliver their fellow-beings from sin and ignorance. All these innumerable
happinesses we can enjoy come from no other source than the grace of Amida Butsu.