Sukhavati: The Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha

Sukhavati- Pure Land of the West

Sukhavati, the land of bliss, is a pure land of Amitabha in Mahayana Buddhism, as stated in Sukhavati-vyuha sutras. It is also termed Western Pure Land, a widely known Buddhist pure land. Anyone can be reborn in here upon invoking the name of Amitabha with a sincere devotion, especially at the moment of death.

Practitioners often refer to Sukhavati with different names. The title in East Asia includes additional terms such as Western, Blissful, and Pure land, mainly based on Chinese translations. But due to the significance of Sukhavati, it is set as 'The Pure Land,' making a distinction between this and other pure regions.

The Amitayus Vipasyana-sutra, Larger and Smaller Pure Land Sutras (Sukhavati-vyuha-sutras) are the three primary Sanskrit scriptures that lay the foundation for the Pure Land ideology.

Concept of the Pure Land:

The rumination of Pure Land Buddhism as a Buddhist School emerged from India in the 2nd century BCE. During that time, China had immense practitioners of Amitabha. Due to this, the teachings of Pure Land Buddhism quickly reached China, and by the 6th century, it reached Japan.

Honen was a pioneer in religious reform and the founder of Jodo-shu (The Pure Land School), the first independent branch of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. He excluded the complex concepts and sophisticated meditation techniques practiced by other schools of Buddhism. His simplifications gave Pure Land Buddhism a significant boost in popularity in the 12th century. A century later, Shin (true) sect was founded on Shinran's new understanding of the Pure Land principles (1173–1262), a disciple of Honen.

Amitabha Buddha and Pure Land Buddhism Correlation

Amitabha Pure Land Traditionally Hand Painted Buddha Thangka

View our collection of Amitabha Buddha Pureland Thangka:

Amitabha Buddha is the foundation for the teachings and sutras of Pure Land Buddhism. In Pure Land Buddhism. He symbolizes pure consciousness and a profound awareness of emptiness. This idea illustrates how Pure Land and traditional Mahayana Buddhism are related.
Pure Land Buddhists embrace the basic Buddhist teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The leading practice that all Pure Land sects have in common is the recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name. Followers of Amitabha aim to achieve rebirth in his pure land via devotion, which would be the culmination of their journey and the first step toward Enlightenment.

During his monarchy, Amitabha was so profoundly affected by the suffering of all beings that he gave up his kingdom and took the monastic name Dharmakara. He was motivated by the teachings of Lokesvaraja Buddha, the then Buddha. He set out to become a Buddha to create a Buddha-land that would be free of all limitations. He attained Supreme Enlightenment and transitioned into the Buddha Amitabha after five eons of self-cultivation. The 18th vow out of the 48th vows set by him is highly regarded by the practitioners all around.

"If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offenses and abuse the right Dharma."

Rebirth Mantra of Pure Land

 Mantra in Sanskrit:

namo amitābhāya tathāgatāya
amṛta-siddhaṃ bhave
gāmine gagana
kīrta-kare svāhā

Adoration to the Exalted one of Infinite Light
namely: Oh! Nectar-producing one!
Nectar-creation-perfecting one!
Nectar-miracle one!
(he) performs miracle with nectar,
he makes (nectar) glory in the sky,

All Hail!

The Meaning of Rebirth Mantra:

namo amitābhāya tathāgatāya: Opening one’s life to Amitabha

Buddhatadyathā: Recite the mantra like this. Or it is said

amṛtod-bhave: The limitless light and radiance [Also refers to Wisdom Body]

amṛta: Limitless

siddhaṃ: all meanings and benefits are accomplished)

bhave: With light and radiance
(Amrita Siddham Bhave also refers to Amitabha Buddha's Meritorious and Virtue Body)

vikrānta: unobstructed practice, universal, expedient, expansive

Te: pure, cross over living beings
(Amrita vikrānta also refers to Amitabha Buddha's Response and Transformation Body)

Vikran: unobstructed practice, universal, expedient, expansive dharmas

Ta: true suchness, non-retreating, unmoving, refers to the self-nature and nature of the dharma

gamine: ultimate bliss, peaceful, clear, tranquil

gagana: empty space
(gāmine gagana also refers to the Land of Ultimate Bliss)

kīrta: definitely go

kare: doing, wish to go
(Krita Kare refers to what I do/vow/desire, definitely can go)

svāhā: swiftly/quickly, accomplish and perfect

This mantra is chanted 21, 27, or 49 times per day. In one sort of group meditation, after reciting the Heart Sutra or the Amitabha Sutra, participants often say this mantra three times.

Most practitioners have a common understanding of the mantra-it helps them reach the Pure Land since the term "rebirth" conjures images of "being reborn" alone. However, "drawing out the basic source of karmic barriers" is another beneficial and significant purpose and meaning of this mantra. The reciter gains advantages from it in their life.

Essentials of The Pure Land

  • Nembutsu

Nembutsu (in Japanese) means "Save me, Amida Buddha" for practitioners seeking salvation. It denotes that the seeker is letting themselves to Amida's (Amitabha) saving Light, compassion, and responding to his call and other virtues. It is termed 'Nianfo' in Chinese.

  • Chanting

Chanting a name or mantra means repetitions of specific text. In Buddhism, this is one of the main ways of learning and showing devotion to Buddhist teaching and deities. Shinran stated that "the True Faith is necessarily accompanied by the utterance of the Name."

  • Scripture

The Pure Land comprises The Larger Sutra on Amitāyus, The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitāyus, and The Smaller Sutra on Amitāyus.

  • Faith

Shin Buddhist states that the faith in Amitabha is a gift from the deity itself. One should take pride or credit in their trust in Amitabha. In keeping with this attitude of modesty, Shin Buddhists reject the notion that people may acquire merit only through their actions; neither performing rituals nor doing good deeds are helpful. 

  • Popularity and Acceptance

Pure Land Buddhism does not include or demand practitioners to be clever or have monastic ordination. Anyone with a will can access this, and it is open to outcasts of society. This was and still is the reason for the acceptance and idolization of Pure Land teaching worldwide.

Pure Land Teachings in Different Nations:

Pure Land Buddhism has developed prosperously throughout the years in Tibetan Buddhism. The Panchen Lamas, a Tibetan lineage of reincarnated tulkus, are said to be emanations of Amitabha Buddha as well as Padmasambhava, a prominent tantric teacher in Tibet. The latter eventually came to be acknowledged as an incarnation of Amitabha Buddha.
There is a Tibetan ritual, '
Phowa,' where practitioners project their consciousness into Sukhavati. 'Om Mani Padme Hum' is highly chanted by the practitioners in Tibet, which is believed to result in one's rebirth in Sukhavati.

Since the 6th century CE, Pure Land Buddhist teachings have significantly influenced Japanese intellectual and social life. The greatest revolutionary in Japanese Pure Land history was Honen (1133–1212). Honen looked for the instruction that would be most helpful for people living in this chaotic and anxious time, drawing on his extensive knowledge of Mahayana philosophy and practice and, in particular, the writings of Shandao.

One of the most well-renown schools of Buddhism in China is Pure Land. Most Buddhist temples in the West that serve a Chinese-ethnic population are a form of Pure Land.

Pure Land was introduced to Korea by Wonhyo (617–686), where it is known as Jeongto. Vietnamese Buddhists also frequently practice Pure Land. 

Hence to sum up, Pure Land Buddhism offers a way to Enlightenment for those unable to manage the complexities of meditation or put up with lengthy ceremonies. The fundamental Buddhist teachings are made more straightforward to deal with by the mystical components that Pure Land Buddhism provides. The Mystical elements include one's faith and trust in Amitabha Buddha as their ultimate savior and a belief that Pure Land Buddhism provides a stepping stone towards Enlightenment and liberation.

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