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The Importance of Amitabha’s 17th Vow in the Pure Land Teaching – Buddhistdoor Global

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The substance of the three Pure Land sutras is the Name

We know that the three pure land sutras, namely the Infinite Life Sutrathe sutra of contemplationand the Amitabha Sutra-are the main sutras of the Pure Land school. However, not everyone is aware of the substance or central theme of these texts.

From the perspective of the Tiantai school, Master Ouyi (1599-1655) said that the substance of the Amitabha Sutra is the real mark (that is, the Buddha-nature, which is free from “marks” or defining characteristics). However, Master Tanluan (476-542) proclaimed that the substance of the three Pure Land sutras is the Name, which specifically refers to the name of Amitabha Buddha.

In fact, both are correct. The first identified the Amitabha Sutra as one of the Mahayana sutras, and since the substance of all Mahayana sutras is the True Mark, Amitabha Sutra is no exception. However, few people can understand the deep meaning and abstract concept of the real brand.

Regarding Master Tanluan’s proclamation on the substance of the three Pure Land sutras, Amitabha’s Name is easy to understand and simple to write, hear and recite. However, why is Amitabha’s Name considered the substance of the sutras, with equal status and significance to the True Mark?

As the substance of the three Pure Land sutras, Amitabha’s name is the central teaching and essence of the three sutras. It fully embraces these sacred texts, including their principles, theories, practices and benefits. Indeed, it encompasses and animates all aspects of the Pure Land school.

Why is Amitabha’s name so special and meaningful?

In the Infinite Life Sutrawe learn that Amitabha’s name is so special that all the buddhas of the 10 directions unanimously extol and praise it, as stated in Amitabha’s 17th Vow:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, countless Buddhas in the land of the ten directions should not unanimously praise and praise my name, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.

Because Amitabha Buddha attained perfect Enlightenment, all Buddhas, including Shakyamuni, praise and praise his Name. Teaching us the Name of Amitabha Buddha was the original intention behind Shakyamuni’s appearance in the world. It was the culminating event of his 49-year career of Dharma teaching.

The meaning of Amitabha’s name is reflected in his 18th vow:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the countries of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully confide in me, desire to be born in my country and call my name even ten times, should not be born there, may I does not attain perfect Enlightenment.

Based on this vow, any sentient being who truly wishes to be reborn in the land of Amitabha can be assured of it by simply reciting Amitabha’s name for the rest of his or her life, even if only 10 times when approaching the death. This is a promise 100% backed by Amitabha Buddha.

By the Name, a reciter of Amitabha will become, upon rebirth in the Land of Bliss, a Buddha-like being, totally emancipated and possessing the same wisdom and lifespan as the Buddha.

The Name enables all sentient beings to attain perfect Enlightenment once they are reborn in the Western Pure Land of Amitabha. Since the liberation of sentient beings is the ultimate goal of all Buddhas in the 10 directions in the three time periods, they do not hesitate to praise and praise Amitabha’s name.

Amitabha seeks the support of all Buddhas to exalt and praise his name

When constructing the 17th Vow, Bodhisattva Dharmakara (the previous incarnation of Amitabha Buddha) had no intention of showing off. In fact, he actively sought the cooperation and support of all the other Buddhas, swearing that they would praise his name, otherwise he would not become a Buddha.

Bodhisattva Dharmakara decided to attain Buddhahood by constructing a reward land so that all sentient beings reborn there would become like Buddhas and remain in the state of non-regression.

Under these circumstances, Amitabha Buddha, by definition, must be a reward Buddha, whom ordinary beings caught up in the Six Realms are unable to see and recognize (due to their karmic obstructions).

This presents a dilemma. How can Amitabha Buddha deliver those iniquitous ordinary beings who cannot see or recognize him? Amitabha Buddha must rely on other Buddhas, such as Shakyamuni, who manifest in human form in the Saha world to speak to ordinary beings in his Land of Reward.

As Shakyamuni Buddha becomes a Buddha in the manifested land, like the land of Saha, he is considered, by definition, a manifested Buddha. His role is to praise and exalt Amitabha’s name with a myriad of virtues that enable ordinary beings in the manifested land to be reborn in Amitabha’s land of reward.

Thus, without the collaboration of all the other Buddhas of the manifested earth, Amitabha Buddha is unable to deliver sentient beings in the 10 directions. He relies on all the other Buddhas to deliver his name to sentient beings so that they can be reborn in his land of bliss and he can fulfill his 18th vow of deliverance through the recitation of Amitabha.

Namo Amituofo is the great name of a myriad of virtues

Last but not least, the name is Amitabha Buddha himself. In this way, he appears as light through the 10 directions to embrace, without giving up, all sentient beings who exclusively recite his Name, as indicated in the sutra of contemplation.

The Name is the method chosen by Amitabha Buddha. He includes all the merits and virtues obtained through his practices in his name and dedicates them to the reciters of Amitabha. Amitabha’s name—Namo Amituofo-is known as the great name of a myriad of virtues.

For this reason, one should never despise the simple six-syllable Name, which is in fact the great boon – the real boon – granted to us by Shakyamuni Buddha, supported and approved by all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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