Philosophy of Pure Land

The philosophy of Pure Land

The origin of chanting name of Buddha
During the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, the pupils could get all answers from Buddha directly, therefore, all pupils were easy in mind for their life of cultivation. But when Buddha liberated from existence, pupils and followers had no way to pay their respects or look up to Buddha’s physical body. In this moment, the frame of mind of admiring Buddha were extremely heavy, especially when meeting with distress (temptations of the passions and of ignorance which disturb and distress the mind), therefore, trying their best to contemplate Buddha in their mind in order to improve the spiritual power. This kind of frame of mind of keeping Buddha in mind built the method of contemplating Buddha later on, and this method is called “Samadhi”, Visualization Sutra and Pratyutpannasamadhi Sutra (the samadhi in which the Buddhas of the ten directions are seen as clearly as the stars at night) are all generated from this standpoint of view.

One who wants to contemplate Buddha should meet the following essential requirements:
Mind : Thinking of Buddha with deeply respect.
Desire : Beholding Buddha with warm and sincere.
Practice : Concentrating with serious manner.

The Evolution of the Thought of Repeating the Name of a Buddha
First, originating from admiring the moral standing of Buddha, Second, becoming cherishing the memory of Buddha’s appearance of adornment, glory, honor, and ornament, Third, forming the method of meditating and thinking (the practice of samadhi), Fourth, the last one, forming the repeating the name of Buddha.

The central idea of repeating the name of Buddha is the FAITH, and the result of this idea is to beseech for rebirth in Pure Land, therefore, the thought of repeating the name of Buddha should have four parts of philosophy, Meditating and Thinking, Repeating the Name of Buddha, Faith, and Pure Land.

THREE PURE LAND sects in China
The Chinese Pure Land School has three sects, the first one is the Hui-Yuan sect of Lu-San, the second one is the Master San-Dau sect, and the third one is the Master Hui-Jih sect.

Hui- Yuan’s Pure Land is to contemplate Buddha in the mind and repeat Buddha’s name, the first step is to get into Samadhi, the second step is to meet Buddha, and the last step is to rebirth in Pure Land. The Samadhi is the highest state of complete combination of body and mind, when reaching this state we can accommodate ourselves to any kind of circumstances and can do anything as we like, we can contemplate the wonderful and supernatural sphere which human eyes and ears cannot reach, but we have to treat Buddha as the object of contemplation, then the contemplation can be reached.

Hui-Yuan thought that the Pure Land is the corresponding of karma, therefore, the ordinary people can only rebirth the pure land of phenomenon but not pure land of noumenon nor pure land of real. Besides, the theory of Hui-Yuan’s Pure Land is to rebirth the Pure Land through contemplating Buddha of reality, it belongs to “According to the reason” or “Logic” or “Meaning” or “Knowledge” or “Common Sense”, and this idea later on was adopted by Idealism School, Three Sastra School, Tien-Tai Sect, and Hua-Yen School, they all treat the Pure Land as the pure land of expedient method (which is temporary, as its occupants still have remains to be purged away), is not the real pure land.

Master Tan-Luan and Master San-Dao supported the thought of original vow and admitted that ordinary people can beseech for rebirth in the land of reward (the Pure Land). The Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha is a glorious pure land which is made of the power of Amitabha Buddha’s original vows, this pure land also is the land of reward, is not the land of reincarnation. Try to understand and perceive the Buddha’s wisdom with the heart of great mercy, it is because any vows from the heart of great mercy are very powerful, can cover all kind of wisdom. If ordinary people can beseech for rebirth in this Pure Land all because of the Amitabha’s great power of unbelievable vows. Master San-Dao leads us to the world of reality with the power of vows.

The theory of pure land of Hui-Yuan is for the man of superior character of capacity (with superios organs of sight, hearing, etc.) and the theory of pure land of San-Dao is for those are born with base character, or of low capacity.

In Tang Dynasty, Master Hui-Jih came back from India and supported the beseeching for rebirth in Pure Land with chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha, later on it became another section of chanting Buddha in Chinese Buddhist Pure Land School. Hui-Jih believed in doctrines of Precept and Pure Land should practice together, Chan(Zen) and Pure Land should cultivate together and the last step is to turn all the results to beseeching for rebirth in Pure Land, according to Huk-Jih this is the real meditation that was approved by Buddha Shykiamuni and is the destiny for all doctrines.

There are three angles for understanding the content of thinking of Buddha, the concentration of the mind upon reality(Contemplating the Amitabha Buddha via Reality), the concentration of the mind upon phenomena(Contemplating the Amitabha Buddha via phenomena), and the invocation(Contemplating the Amitabha Buddha via chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha).

No matter which contemplation the object is Amitabha Buddha. “The content of contemplating the Amitabha Buddha via Reality” is about the fundamental substance or body of all things, because it is formless therefore very hard to control it. “The content of contemplating the Amitabha Buddha via phenomena” has form but is very complicate to practice. Therefore “Contemplating the Amitabha Buddha via chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha is the easiest way to practice the Pure Land doctrine.

The chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha has three kinds of functions, first is the function of mind, second is the function of religious experience(examination and understanding), and third is the function of true power of the name itself(Namo Amitabha), and because of the three functions, the result of chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha will get the limitless life and light.

1) The psychology of chanting the name of Buddha
The nature of Buddha’s name is including all concept of Buddha. We can find out and understand the real content of religious ideology.
Everything has a name, if there is no name and appearance then we don’t understand the content of being exist, therefore, name is a concrete show of truth itself. The content of Buddha will appeared correspondingly by chanting the name of Buddha.

Due to chanting the name of Buddha over and over, then it will become some kind of result of mechanization, and this mechanization of chanting the name of Buddha will brush clean everything on mechanical consciousness, then it will become a status of absence of objective thought that is non-good non-evil, this is called “pure mind”. When reaching this level the “chanting” and the “sound” can be blended together, the level is called “chanting and sound are one”.

The Mahasamnipata (a division of the sutrapitaka containing avadanas, i.e. comparisons, metaphors, parables, and stories illustrating the Buddhist doctrines) says: “chanting loud will see big Buddha, chanting low will see small Buddha”. When chanting loud, will get rid of all kinds of moral infection (the various causes of transmigration), then will reach the level of surpassing the false view (a view which forms the basis of all erroneous doctrine), in the moment the internal and external will be purified deeply, there is only Buddha’s name that is all over the universe. This is the way of seeing Buddha through chanting the name of Buddha.

The final level of chanting the name of Buddha is “chanting but not chanting” (we are repeating the name of Buddha but we don’t feel or know that we are repeating the name of Buddha), “this mind is Buddha”, this is the world of religious learning through practice.

Believing (Faith), Vow (Pledge), and Action (Practice) are the most important conditions in cultivating Pure Land doctrine.

And with undivided mind to hold to the name of Buddha is the level we should try to reach to. The undivided mind in phenomenon (relative): when we hear the name of Buddha, we should always keep it in mind word by word, uninterrupted continuity, and only one thought (the name of Buddha) in every state. The undivided mind in noumena (absolute): active and passive thought (thought of Buddha) will be blended into one, existence and non-existence are all vanished, this is the moment that reach the level of absolute.

The undivided mind in Noumena (absolute) is the utmost level, we can examine everything exhaustively when we are in the samadhi in which the individual whole-heartedly thinks of the appearance of the Buddha. And this is the characteristic of chanting the name of Buddha. Understanding the absolute through the relative, Seeing Buddha through chanting the name of Buddha, and becoming Buddha through the thought (samadhi), is the characteristic of ideology (idea) of chanting the name of Buddha.

Name of Buddha is the medium.
The world of Buddhas and the world of sentient being are total different, but the name of Buddha is the medium, when believing the name of Buddha, then will reaching the power of Buddha. Why has the name of Buddha this kind of power?

The fundamental meaning of name of Buddha.
The name of Buddha belongs to Buddha, also is the motive force of faith, and the appearance of wisdom of Buddha, is not the power of subjective consciousness. The Buddha becomes the name of “Namo Amitabha”, comes to this land from his land, gives up the land of adornment, shrinks Buddha himself and becomes the form of name of Buddha, all of this just want to make the sentient being in this world easy to practice the doctrine and to receive and lead the sentient being to the Pure Land. This is the easiest way of practice the Buddhist doctrine that Buddha can show the sentient being in this world.

The power of the name of Buddha comes from the power of vow (resolve, will, or desire), and the power of resolve, will, or desire are without limit, therefore, the power of the name of Buddha is without limit also.

Master San-Dao of China said once: “chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha ten times or even one time, must rebirth in the Western Pure Land”, the pure one thought (chanting only one time) surpass all kinds of moral infection (the various causes of transmigration), this is from the power of the name of Buddha. From this standpoint we should understand one thing that all being will be shined and received including those who always do evil things. This is the utmost level of compassion and mercy, the name of Buddha means everything, internal and external are correspond, affirmation and negation are phenomenal identity. This is the fundamental meaning of existence of Buddha’s name.

Getting rid of the Holding to the Concept of the Ego.
The suffering we have are all from self-thought or self-will that is deeply in our mind, therefore the first step to deliver ourselves is to get rid of the Holding to the Concept of the Ego. Our spiritual life always have a attachment (Holding to the Concept of the Ego), but the Principle of Truth (the absolute apart from phenomena) is always empty, through emptiness can develop the limitless power, the power of universe, the reason that saints can develop their great power is that they understand the power of universe. All the happiness, anger, grief, and joy we have are all false, when we add the concept of ego to this false externals, then we will have all kinds of suffering, if there is no Holding to the Concept of the Ego, then there will be no source of suffering.

The Power of Faith.
The best way of leaving suffering and receiving happiness, is the faith that is from chanting the name of Buddha. The power of Buddha is just like the limitless electric power, the substance of Buddha and sentient being are the same originally, but sentient being isolate from the great electric power because of the mind of doubt. On the contrary, the faith is the switch of reaching the great electric power, from here, if we can cultivate our mind purely and get rid of the Egoism (the concept of the ego as real), then we will reach the world of absolute, all suffering are vanished, life are limitless, brightness are limitless, because of corresponding to Truth.

The Suffering and the Joy
The concept of suffering in Buddhism is not pessimism, but spiritual deliverance. The concept of joy in Buddhism is not for seeking the joy of the five sense organs but for seeking the joy of Nirvana (liberated from existence, absolute extinction, or annihilation). This is the JOY that surpass suffering and common joy.

The suffering come from affliction, distress, passion, worry, or trouble, but the source of all of these is “Holding to the Concept of the Ego” and “ Holding to things as realities” (the false tenet that things are real). The Holding to the Concept of the Ego and Holding to things as realities are to cling to things as real from subjective angle. Therefore the suffering is human being’s subjective phenomena, so first step for us to leave the suffering is to get rid of subjective “Cling to things as real” , and the best way to get rid of the “Cling to things as real” is Chanting the name of Buddha and the Faith.

The Nirvana and the Utmost Joy
The utmost calmness and extinction (Nirvana) is like blowing out the raging flames (affliction, distress, passion, worry, or trouble), it is not suffering, it is not joyful, but absolutely tranquil, causeless and spontaneous, pure and undefiled, it can be the substance of all phenomena, this level is called the absolutely utmost joy.

From this absolutely utmost joyful level reveal the threefold body (the embodiment of the law shining everywhere enlightening all [the body of the law is the true reality of everything], a Buddha’s reward body or body of enjoyment of the merits he attained as a bodhisattva [this is the form of Buddha as an object of worship], and a Buddha’s transformation or miraculous body in which he appears at will and in any form outside his world), and makes all kinds of pure land appeared.

In material world we have “Holding to the Concept of the Ego”, therefore this kind of level (absolutely utmost joyful level) can never be revealed. The Embodiment of the Law is the status of truth itself, therefore the power of response to need cannot be revealed, the Buddha’s Reward Body has the power of response to need, can reveal all kinds of visible world (form), in this kind of world there are two basic characteristics, the life is limitless, the brightness is limitless. In another words, the world of Nirvana has two basic qualities, that is eternal (everlasting) and universal. This is the fundamental theory of utmost joy.

Hank Fu
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