Monday, August 1, 2011

The reason for the western location of the Pure Land and its wonderful description in the sutras


Question: „Why the Pure Land of Amida Buddha is called „the Western Pure Land” or „the Pure Land of the West”? Why the „west” is so much emphasized in many of the sacred writings related with Amida? And also why the Pure Land is described in such a fantastic way in the sutras?”

Answer: In order to show that Amida’s Pure Land is not a metaphor, but a real place in which people can actually aspire to be born after death, the land is given a direction and is described in great details in the sutras.
Some say that the direction „west” and the marvelous descriptions of the Pure Land are a proof for its non-existence or for its existence  as a symbol or metaphor only.

But the truth is that by making the effort to describe in many words the wonders of the Pure Land and by pointing to a direction where to face the Pure Land when worshipping Amida, Shakyamuni Buddha wants to emphasize its actual existence as a place where sentient beings should aspire to be born without worry and doubt.
It is like I speak to you about a beautiful park which I would like you to visit. If I tell you, „its there, in the west of the town” and I start describing it to you, then you will have no doubt about its existence and you will wish to see it. Its the same with the expression „Pure Land of the West”.

The exaltation with which Shakyamuni describes the Pure Land of Amida in the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) without even being asked to do it[1], or the radiant light that emanated from his body when he delivered the Larger Sutra in which he expounded the story of Amida and his 48th vows[2], are both an indication that his words were true and his listeners should accept Amida as a living Buddha and his Pure Land as a real place.





[1] The Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) is a sutra spontaneously delivered, not in response to a question, which is a proof of the importance of the teaching about Amida Buddha. In this discourse, Shakyamuni begins every description with great enthusiam, repeating the name of his main listener, Shariputra, telling him the wonders of the Pure Land and the uniqueness of Amida Buddha among all Buddhas.
[2] It is recorded in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha that when Shakyamuni was about to deliver it“all the senses of the World-Honored One radiated joy, his entire body appeared serene and glorious, and his august countenance looked most majestic.” After Ananda asks him which is the reason of these wonderful manifestations, Shakyamuni reveals to him the true goal of his coming to this world, by presenting the story of Amida Buddha, the 48th Vows and encouraging sentient beings to aspire for birth in the Pure Land. In the same sutra, the whole gathering listening to the discourse, including Ananda, had a vision with Amida Buddha and his Pure Land, which is another proof that Shakyamuni speaks about real things, not symbols or fictions.

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