Celebrating Amitabha’s Power

The power of Amitabha Buddha, also called Amida Buddha, is a fascinating and important topic in Buddhism. Amitabha Buddha is one of the most popular and widely venerated figures in Mahayana Buddhism, and is especially revered in Pure Land Buddhism.

To begin with, Amitabha Buddha is often referred to as the Buddha of Infinite Light, and is associated with the Western Pure Land, or Sukhavati, which is considered to be a paradise or pure land where beings can be reborn after death and attain enlightenment through Amitabha’s grace and power. In this sense, Amitabha is seen as a compassionate and benevolent figure who offers a path to enlightenment that is accessible to all, regardless of their background or level of spiritual attainment.

One of the key practices associated with Amitabha Buddha is reciting his name or mantra, which is believed to generate positive karma and create a connection with Amitabha’s pure land. This practice is often performed in groups or individually, and is considered to be a simple yet powerful way to cultivate devotion, mindfulness (sati in Pali or “remembrance”), and compassion.

In addition to the practice of reciting Amitabha’s name, there are also many other rituals, ceremonies, and devotional practices associated with Amitabha Buddha, such as making offerings, chanting sutras, and performing prostrations. These practices are designed to create a connection with Amitabha and to purify the mind and body in order to prepare for rebirth in the Pure Land.

Overall, the power of Amitabha Buddha is seen as a source of inspiration, comfort, and hope for many Buddhists, who turn to Amitabha’s grace and compassion as a means of achieving enlightenment and liberation from suffering. Whether through the practice of reciting his name or through other devotional practices, the power of Amitabha Buddha continues to inspire and guide many Buddhists on their spiritual journey.

Master Yinguang (1861–1940), the Pure Land patriarch, pointed out that many Buddhists misunderstand the Pure Land teaching. They fail to recognize the immense power of Amitabha Buddha and the simplicity of the Amitabha-recitation practice. Furthermore, they make the mistake of trying to interpret Amitabha’s “other-power” teaching within the context of Shakyamuni’s “self-power” teaching, leading to confusion and doubt. Despite reciting Amitabha Buddha’s Name with the aspiration of rebirth in his Land of Bliss, they still rely on the “self-power” approach and dedicate merit from other practices towards this goal. Unfortunately, this approach causes them to lose the great benefit of rebirth in the Pure Land.

The Amitabha Sutra says: 

    That Buddha’s light is boundless, illuminating the lands of the ten directions without any obstruction. This is why he is called Amitabha.

The Contemplation Sutra says:

    The light of Amitabha permeates all the worlds, always embracing those who recite his Name.

Master Shandao, traditionally seen as the founder of the Pure Land “School,” combined the two texts and explained: 

    The Buddha’s light is infinite, illuminating all lands in the ten directions without any obstruction. He watches over the Amitabha-reciters and embraces them always. That is why he is called Amitabha.

Amitabha’s Name holds immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable, profound, hidden, splendid, and unsurpassed merit and virtues. It’s a fact that all sentient beings, regardless of who they are, can attain great benefits and unsurpassed merit and virtues immediately by exclusively reciting Amitabha’s Name.

According to Master Shandao, an exclusive Amitabha-reciter has three types of relationships with Amitabha Buddha, which results in their constant embrace by Amitabha’s unimpeded and infinite light. These relationships are the intimate relationship, the close relationship, and the enhancing relationship. Additionally, in the Exposition of the Merit of Samadhi of Contemplation and Recitation on the Ocean-like Figure of Amitabha Buddha, Master Shandao (Zendo, Japan) provides further insight on this topic.

Both in the present life and after death, they will certainly attain the great benefits with splendid merit. In connection with this, I will reveal, according to the Buddhist teaching, the causal conditions which bring forth five kinds of enhancing benefits, as follows:

1. The enhancing causal condition effecting eradication of one’s karmic offenses,

2. The enhancing causal condition effecting protection and longevity,

3. The enhancing causal condition enabling one to see the Buddha,

4. The enhancing causal condition embracing beings to be reborn,

5. The enhancing causal condition affirming one to attain rebirth.

Amitabha’s power over sentient beings is considered an external force, or a “condition.” Despite this, it is incredibly strong and can override the effects of their karma without any hindrance. As a result, this force is also viewed as an “augmentative” or “enhancing cause.”

Master Shandao, referring to the Infinite Life Sutra, also says:

All good and evil ordinary beings will not attain rebirth [in the Pure Land] without recourse to the karmic power of Amitabha’s Great Vow as an augmentative cause.

According to the Infinite Life Sutra, the Buddha stated that all sentient beings possess unique dispositions and capacities, which can be categorized into high, medium, and low tiers. The buddhas encourage them to recite the Name of Amitayus, Infinite life Buddha, with singleness of mind, based on their individual aptitude and spiritual capacity. At the time of their death, the Buddha will appear uninvited, accompanied by sacred beings, to welcome them and facilitate their rebirth.

The Infinite Life Sutra tells us:

If sentient beings encounter his light, their three defilements (greed, anger, and delusion) are removed; they feel tenderness, joy, and pleasure, and good thoughts arise. If sentient beings, desperately caught in the Three Wretched Realms, see his light, they will all be relieved and freed from afflictions. At the end of their lives, they are all delivered.

Master Shandao explains in the Commentary on the Contemplation Sutra:

Moreover, at the end of their lives, they will be welcomed by the Buddha and a multitude of sacred beings without them being invited. They will not be impeded by any deviant or evil karmic forces [preventing them from being reborn in the Land of Bliss].

Master Shandao also notes: 

For those sentient beings who exclusively recite Amitabha Buddha’s Name, the light of the Buddha always shines upon them, protecting and embracing them, never forsaking them; it does not shine upon and embrace those who perform miscellaneous practices.

Finally, he says:

Amitabha Buddha made a profound, weighty vow to embrace all beings with his light and transform them with his name, asking only that they have faith, aspire to rebirth in the Pure Land, and recite his name. Whether one recites an entire lifetime, or merely 10 times, or even just once, rebirth is easy because of the power of Amitabha’s vow.

Reciting Amitabha’s Name exclusively is a powerful practice that offers protection and the warm embrace of Amitabha’s light to all sentient beings. The Pure Land school and Amitabha’s deliverance teach that rebirth in the pure Land of Bliss is not only attainable, but also achievable in this very lifetime through this practice. By focusing solely on the recitation of Amitabha’s Name, one can experience a profound sense of peace and tranquility, while also cultivating a deep connection with the divine. This practice is a true gift to all who seek spiritual growth and enlightenment.

The Infinite Light Sutra presents a fascinating idea that deserves our attention. According to the text, Amitabha’s light has the power to remove the three defilements that plague our minds. As a result, our minds become pure and reach a state of hongaku, which can be translated as “original enlightenment” or “primal light.” This state of mind is akin to the luminous mind that Gotama spoke of.

Furthermore, the Sutra assures us that those who are relieved of their afflictions will be freed from suffering and delivered at the end of their lives. This is a remarkable promise that raises some interesting questions. What would it mean to be freed from all afflictions? For starters, it would mean the end of dukkha, or suffering. But it would also mean the end of seeing dichotomy everywhere we look, which is one of the primary causes of dukkha. This is precisely what happens in the meditative state called “Amitabha samadhi.”

When we speak of the end of life in terms of Buddha’s Dharma, we must consider the teachings of Shandao. He speaks in terms of conventional or samsaric existence, which may not be as all-encompassing as the Infinite Life Sutra. The Sutra clearly states that the mental purity attained through practice leads to entry into the Pure Land at the end of life. 

It is important to note that life is a vast concept in Buddhist terms. Every time there is a change of mind, it is followed by a rebirth. For example, if one is happy and then becomes sad for some reason, the happy person dies and the sad person is born. This is why it is crucial to cultivate a pure mind and have faith in the transformative power of the light of Amitabha. The physical death is not required, a mental or psychological death is mandated. 

Undoubtedly, both readings, liberation at the time of physical death and liberation at the time of psychological death and rebirth, are correct interpretations. It is imperative to note that the duality of Amitabha and the individual must necessarily come to an end. The individuality of the sentient being is transformed into the being the sentience that is Amitabha. The light of Amitabha is an immensely powerful force that has the ability to eliminate the duality of this one and that one. It is a transformative power that can help us transcend the limitations of our minds and enter a state of no-mind, where we are free from afflictions and suffering. This message serves as a reminder of the utmost importance of cultivating a pure mind and having unwavering faith in the power of Amitabha. It is only through this faith that we can truly harness the transformative power of Amitabha’s light and experience liberation from the cycle of suffering.

It’s important to understand the nuances of this idea. Essentially, we’re talking about the mind’s ability to habitually create an appearance of duality. But what does that mean exactly? Well, there are many different ways to approach this question, depending on the author and the school of Buddhism. 

From a Madhyamaka perspective, for example, we can say that the mind creates an appearance of true existence, which is actually false and impossible. This creates a duality between the appearance and the actual pure appearance of things. In other words, the mind is creating an appearance that is different from the way things actually exist. 

On the other hand, a nondual mind would create an appearance of things as they actually do exist — dependently arising, beyond words and concepts, and so on. This is a much more accurate representation of reality, and there is nothing dual about this appearance. 

Overall, it’s important to understand the nuances of dual mind and nondual mind, and to approach this topic with confidence and a willingness to explore the many different perspectives that exist within Buddhism.

The light of Amitabha’s power heals the mind of this false dualistic interpretation of human experience. Of course, the topic of mental activity is a complex one, but it can be defined with three simple words: clarity, awareness, and suchness. These three words refer to one activity, which can be described from different perspectives. Clarity, which can be translated as the act of making a mental hologram, refers to the meaning and essence of mental activity. It is the process of creating an appearance in the mind. Awareness, on the other hand, refers to the act of knowing the object. It is the process of recognizing the object in terms of a hologram. 

It is important to note that making an appearance and knowing an object in terms of a hologram are one and the same thing. The mind does not create a thought and then think it. Rather, the arising of a thought and thinking of a thought are one and the same thing, just described from two different points of view. This means that the mind creates a visual hologram from all the pixels of light and firing of neurons. 

In conclusion, mental activity is a complex process that involves clarity, awareness, and merely. It is the process of creating a mental hologram and recognizing the object in terms of a hologram. The mind creates a visual hologram from all the pixels of light and firing of neurons. This is a fundamental aspect of mental activity that should be understood with confidence.

The dual appearance of a hologram and the mind that perceives it may lead one to believe that they are separate entities, originating from different sources. However, a nondual perspective reveals that they are part of the same process. It is important to note that this does not mean that physical objects and awareness are identical. They are distinct phenomena. Nondual refers to the entire process of mental activity, encompassing both physical and mental aspects. By recognizing this, we gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of our experiences.

The practitioner and Amitabha are no longer two unconnected entities, with Amitabha existing somewhere out there and the individual down here. They have now merged together as part of the same process, creating a perfect union. This process is known as “Infinite Life,” which brings with it an “Infinite Wisdom,” the wisdom of that which is necessary to know — how things are and not how we imagine them to be. It represents the ultimate combination of Method and Wisdom, which is referred to as “tantra” in the Esoteric teachings of Buddhism. This powerful union allows the practitioner to tap into a higher level of consciousness, unlocking a world of endless possibilities.

About Sensei Mui

Sensei Mui is a Buddhist monk who took formal refuge and bhikkhu ordination as a Theravada monk in Thailand during the early 1970s. Since those days he has both studied and was ordained in multiple Mahayana lineages. Today the main focus of his practice and teaching is from the Pure Land perspective. He currently acts as the Director and Administrator for Hongaku Jodo, an educational and practice oriented organization of Buddhist teachers of Dharma, pure and simple.
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