How Pure Land Works

The goal espoused by all Buddhist schools is for the practitioner to achieve Buddhahood, i.e., to become an ‘Enlightened Being’. Thus, to practice Buddhism is to cultivate enlightenment, to attain Wisdom. Although there are many paths to reach this goal, they all involve severing greed, anger and delusion, thus perfecting the qualities of the Mind (paramitas). Traditionally, Buddhist sutras enumerate six or ten paramitas, but they may be reduced to three key paramitas: Discipline, Concentration, and Wisdom (the second, fifth and sixth paramitas, respectively).

Pure Land, symbolized by the Buddha Recitation Method, is a Mahayana approach that employs inter alia, the techniques of meditation-visualization (of Pure Land, Amitabha Buddha) and oral recitation of the Buddha’s name, to realize these paramitas. That is, when a practitioner is busy visualizing the Buddha or reciting the Buddha’s name, he cannot commit transgressions or violate Buddhist precepts.

Therefore, he has effectively fulfilled the paramitas of Discipline. Likewise, reciting the Buddha’s name with a complete focused Mind is nothing less than fulfilling the paramita of Concentration. Once Concentration is achieved, the practitioner’s Mind becomes empty and still, leading to the emergence of his innate Wisdom — the Wisdom of the Buddhas.

Thus, a sincere Buddha Recitation practitioner, by dint of his own effort, effectively attains Buddhahood. According to Pure Land doctrine, however, most practitioners in this Degenerate Age find the “self-power”, self-help approach too difficult and arduous; therefore, in their Pure Land teachings, the Buddhas and Sages compassionately emphasized the additional element of “other-power”.

This involves reliance on Amitabha Buddha’s Vows, made countless eons ago, to welcome and escort all sentient beings to his Land of Ultimate Bliss – an ideal training ground, an ideal environment. To benefit from these Vows, the cultivator still needs to do his part – and the easiest practice is Buddha Recitation.

Some of our readers may be led to think that the sole object of Pure Land devotees is to be born in Amida’s Land of Bliss and Purity … But the fact is that the birth itself … is not the object, but to attain enlightenment in the country of Amida where conditions are such as to ensure a ready realization of the true Buddhist life … If we can say so, to be born in the Pure Land is the means to the end; for Buddhism in whatever form is a religion of enlightenment and emancipation.

D.T. Suzuki in The Eastern Buddhist, v. 3, no. 4.

Ultimately, when the practitioner recites to the point of pure, unmixed power, the totality of Mind is Buddha, the totality of Buddha is Mind, Mind and Buddha are as one. I am afraid that this principle and practice is not understood by everyone. It has always been my desire to proclaim them and to disseminate the Original Vows of Amitabha Buddha to rescue all sentient beings.

Patriarch Yin Kuang, 19th c.