Pure Land Buddhism

Pure Land Buddhism – devotional Buddhism school of the Buddha Amitabha—“Buddha of Infinite Light’. It is one of the most popular forms of Mahayana Buddhism in eastern Asia today. Pure Land schools believe that rebirth in Amitabha’s Western Paradise, Sukhavati, known as the Pure Land, is ensured for all those who invoke Amitabha’s name with sincere devotion.

Amitabha’s pure land of Sukhavati is described in the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra as a land of beauty that surpasses all other realms. It is said to be inhabited by many gods, men, flowers, fruits, and adorned with wish-granting trees where rare birds come to rest.

Amitabha is another transcendent Buddha of Mahayana Buddhism, called the Buddha of Boundless Light. Amitabha is the focus of the Pure Land schools of Buddhism which are very popular in Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. According to tradition, many ages ago Amitabha was a great king who renounced his throne and became a monk named Dharmakara.

Amitabha is usually shown seated in deep concentration with half-closed eyes and hands held together at the lap in the gesture of meditation. He wears a simple monk’s robe, draped over the shoulders, leaving the flesh of his chest and the lower part of one arm exposed.

The Pure Land teachings first became prominent in China with the founding of Donglin Temple at Mount Lu in 402. Mount Lu is regarded as being among the most sacred religious sites of the Pure Land Buddhist tradition, and the site of the first Pure Land gathering.

According to the Pure Land tradition, the entire teaching of the Buddha can be divided into the twofold path of the Holy Way (shodomon) and the Pure Land (jodomon).

The Holy Way is the way to attain enlightenment after eliminating ignorance and self-attachment by one’s own effort. This may be called the way of wisdom, for it is the way to accomplish enlightenment by the power of wisdom attained through self-discipline.

When we lose the way to enlightenment by the Holy Way, we often sink down into a world of darkness and despair. Amitabha Buddha, however, provides a way for them to attain salvation from this hopeless state. This is the way illuminated by the light of the grace of Amitabha Buddha, the Path to the Pure Land. The Pure Land school opens the channel to attain salvation for those unliberated through the way of wisdom.

However, since this school is different from the Holy Path, it is sometimes referred to as pseudo-Buddhism. It seems to be Buddhism, but it is not considered to be genuine from the traditional point of view. Pure Land Buddhism is also mistakenly regarded as a religion for lazy people. It is sometimes called the Easy Path as it requires only the simple act of faith and recitation of the Amitabha Buddha’s name as its primary religious disciplines rather than the many practices of observing precepts, attaining the state of “emptiness,” chanting the various sutras and so forth, as the means of reaching enlightenment.

The Pure Land school established on this basis may be called the way of salvation by a “power outside of ourselves,” or “other power” (i.e., the power of Amitabha Buddha). Pure Land Buddhism is built on the belief that we will never have a world which is not corrupt, so we must strive for re-birth in another state of existence, referred to as the “Pure Land”

When we come to Pure Land Buddhism, God and Amitabha Buddha seem to be the same. Both are believed in as a savior by devotees. Among the branches of Buddhism, the Pure Land school particularly emphasizes “faith.” Devotees of the school realize that they do not attain enlightenment by their own power, but by simply having faith in Amitabha’s power of salvation.

Repeating the name of Amitabha is traditionally a form of mindfulness of the Buddha. The practice is described as calling the Buddha to mind by repeating his name, to enable the practitioner to bring all his or her attention upon that Buddha. Chinese Buddhists widely consider this form of recitation as a very effective form of meditation practice.

In Pure Land Buddhism, women cannot be awakened on their own. They have to be reborn as a man. In Pure Land Buddhism, they go to Pure Land as a male and then become awakened.