Thursday, July 16, 2015
The two aspects of the Pure Land
The Pure Land of Amida Buddha has two main aspects: 1) the ultimate Dharmakaya aspect, and 2) the manifestation or Sambhogakaya (recompense) aspect.
1) The first aspect (Dharmakaya) means that the Pure Land is Nirvanic in its essence, as it was stated in the Larger Sutra:
My land, being like Nirvana itself,
Will be beyond comparison.”
This means that all the manifestations of the Pure Land are grounded in the perfect Enlightenment of Amida Buddha, and are conducive to Enlightenment. We ourselves will attain Enlightenment when we are born in the Pure Land, because the essence of the Pure Land is Enlightenment/Nirvana/Dharmakaya itself. Otherwise, if the Pure Land was not an enlightened realm, it would produce only sensorial attachments, like other Samsaric realms do, but Shakyamuni Buddha and our Masters were very clear that this is not the case.
Also, in the Essentials of Faith Alone, Master Seikaku said:
is the realm of Nirvana, the
uncreated’. Land of Bliss
The “uncreated” refers to ultimate Dharmakaya beyond forms, which is the essence of all Buddhas and their lands. From this Dharmakaya emerge all the manifestations for the sake of saving sentient beings in accordance with the specific vows of different Buddhas. In our case, the Pure Land of Amida appeared when He attained perfect Enlightenment and thus brought His 48 vows to fulfilment. In that moment, His land took the form and manifestations described in the sutras and especially in His 31st and 32nd Vows, while also maintaining its formless Dharmakaya essence.
2) About the Sambhogakaya (Recompense) aspect of the Pure Land, Shinran Shonin said:
“We clearly know from the Tathagata’s teaching of truth and the masters’ commentaries that the Pure Land of Peace and Provision is the True Land of Recompense”.
This is because the Pure Land is the effect or “recompense” of Dharmakara’s practices and vows, and it came into existence when Bodhisattva Dharmakara became Amida Buddha:
“When I contemplate “recompense,” I find that the accomplished land has resulted as the recompense for the Tathagata’s oceanlike Vow. Hence, ‘recompensed’.”
So, being a Recompensed (Sambhogakaya) Land, the Pure Land is the result or recompense of the fulfillment of the 31st Vow:
“If, when I attain Buddhahood, my land should not be resplendent, revealing in its light all the immeasurable, innumerable and inconceivable Buddha-lands, like images reflected in a clear mirror, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
and the 32nd Vow:
“If, when I attain Buddhahood, all the myriads of manifestations in my land, from the ground to the sky, such as palaces, pavilions, ponds, streams and trees, should not be composed of both countless treasures, which surpass in supreme excellence anything in the worlds of humans and devas, and of a hundred thousand kinds of aromatic wood, whose fragrance pervades all the worlds of the ten quarters, causing all bodhisattvas who sense it to perform Buddhist practices, then may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
The Light of the Pure Land is the Light of Amida Buddha, the
itself being the transcendental manifestation of Amida Buddha. This is why the
31st Vow is closely related with the 12th Vow, showing
the unity between Amida as an Enlightened Person and His Pure Land. Pure Land
The “myriads of manifestations” mentioned in the 32nd Vow show that the
surpasses all other places in the world of suffering – “surpass in supreme excellence anything in the worlds of humans and
devas”. In fact, the Pure Land is beyond Samsara
and cannot be compared with the realms caught in the power of birth and death,
thus subject to impermanence. Humans, devas (gods) plus other kinds of sentient
beings and the environments in which they are born are the product of their unenlightened
karma, but the Pure Land of Amida is the manifestation of His supreme
Enlightenment and pure merits, so all its treasures and manifestations are
supreme in beauty while in the same time they have the power to deepen and strengthen
the dedication of those engaged in the practice of liberating themselves and
others (bodhisattvas): “a hundred
thousand kinds of aromatic wood, whose fragrance pervades all the worlds of the
ten quarters, causing all bodhisattvas who sense it to perform Buddhist
It is obvious that the treasures found in the
are not intended for the enjoyment of the six senses but for expressing the Dharma,
calling beings to the Dharma, praising Amida’s virtues and showing the supreme
place this enlightened land occupies among other Buddha lands. They are
spiritual treasures, even if they are described using the terms we are familiar
with, like palaces, pavilions, ponds, streams and trees, aromatic wood, etc. Pure Land
Shinran Shonin distinguished between two aspects of Amida’s
Pure Land as a (Sambhogakaya): Recompensed
Fulfilled Pure Land
(sometimes named the ),
2) the Transformed Pure Land
It is important to emphasize that both are the rewards of the Vows of Amida Buddha, so they are not different realms, but part of the same Recompensed (Sambhogakaya) Pure Land. This is why I call them two aspects, and not two Pure Lands.
Those born in the Fulfilled Pure Land are followers of the true faith (shinjin) of the 18th Vow (Primal Vow) and they immediately attain Nirvana or Buddhahood, while those who are born in the Transformed Pure Land are followers of the 19th and 20th Vows. The later are people with mixed faith, and so they need to stay for a while in that place until they overcome their doubts.
As Master Shan-tao called it, birth in the Fulfilled Land of the Pure Land is called „Inconceivable Birth” and all those born there „are endowed with bodies of Naturalness, Emptiness, and Infinity” . To have bodies of Naturalness, Emptiness and Infinity means to become a Buddha or to attain perfect Enlightenment.
The Pure Land in the aspect of the Transformed Land is as described in the „thirteen contemplations” and the „nine grades of aspirants” from the Contemplation Sutra, but also in the Larger Sutra and other texts. As Shinran explained:
„The Transformed Land refers to the Pure Land as shown in the Contemplation Sutra; again it is as described in the Sutra on the Bodhisattvas Dwelling in the Womb (Bosatsu Shotai Kyo), namely the Realm of Sloth and Pride; again it is as described in the Larger Sutra as the Castle of Doubt and the Womb-Palace.”
Border Land (Henji), Realm
of Sloth and Pride (Keman),
the Castle of Doubt
and the Womb-Palace (Taigu)
are different names for the Transformed
Land aspect of the ,
which is where the followers of the 19th and 20th Vows
are born. To recite the Nembutsu in self-power or to do other Buddhist
practices to gain birth in Amida’s Land, results in not entering directly into
the centre of the Pure Land (or the Fulfilled Pure Land), but in staying for a
while in this Transformed Land. People born there do not immediately attain the
state of Buddhahood, like those born in the centre of the Pure Land through the
gate of the Primal Vow, but they are also free once and for all from the
suffering of birth and death in Samsara. They are safe, but still they are not enlightened.
In the same time, being in the special environment of this borderland of the
Pure Land they have the opportunity to overcome their doubts and entrust
completely in Amida Buddha. When they do this, they also enter the Fulfilled
Pure Land and attain Nirvana (perfect Enlightenment) or Buddhahood. Pure Land
Referring to the
Land (borderland of the ),
Shinran said: Pure Land
“Since practitioners of shinjin are few, many are guided to the transformed land”.
Master Shan-tao also said:
“Those born in the
are extremely few; those born in the
are many.” Transformed
Again, I stress the importance that both the „Transformed Land” and „the Fulfilled Pure Land” (or “True Land of Recompense”) are aspects of the same Pure Land of Amida Buddha, just like the anteroom and the main room are part of the same house. As usually, the owner of the house (in our case – Amida Buddha) prefers to stay in the main room together with His faithful sons (followers of the 18th Vow), while those who have a mixed faith (followers of the 19th and 20th Vows) keep themselves in the anteroom. It is not the fault of Amida or a punishment that some are born in the borderland of the
Pure Land ( ),
just they are kept in that region by their own doubts. They are the ones who
are keeping themselves out of the main room of the Transformed
Land, not Amida Buddha, so when they
overcome their doubts, they will also join the and immediately
attain Nirvana (Buddhahood). Fulfilled Pure
 The Three Pure Land Sutras - A Study and Translation from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p.9-10
 For example, when He explained the role and origin of the wonderful birds of the Pure Land, He said:
“Shariputra, you should not assume that these birds are born as retribution of their evil karma. The reason is that none of the three evil realms exists in that Buddha-land. Shariputra, even the names of the three evil realms do not exist there; how much less the realms themselves? These birds are manifested by Amida Buddha so that their singing can proclaim and spread the Dharma”.
 The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha,
, 1997, p. 460. Kyoto
 Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 229.
 Ibid., p.230
 Larger Sutra. Shinran himself made reference to that passage in the Larger Sutra, in his work, Passages on the Pure Land Way [REALIZATION]:
“Their countenances are dignified and wonderful, surpassing things of this world. Their features, subtle and delicate, are not those of human beings or devas; all receive the body of naturalness or of emptiness, the body of boundlessness.”
 Shinran Shonin, Kyogyoshinsho, cf with Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 233. and Kygyoshinsho, Ryukoku Translation Series,
, 1966, p.
 It is thus called because those born there are far removed from the true bliss of the Pure Land just as those in a border land are less benefited by civilisation. cf with Tannisho – Notes Lamenting Differences, Ryukoku Translation Series, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, 1962, p. 41, fn 1.
 It is thus called because those born there are too proud to believe in the Buddha’s Primal Vow whole-heartedly, and due to the lack of faith they are not so dilligent as to advance to the True Land of Recompense. cf with Tannisho – Notes Lamenting Differences, Ryukoku Translation Series, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, 1962, p. 41, fn 1.
 It is thus called because those born there have to stay in the Transformed Land due to the sin of doubting just as though pent up in a castle. cf with Tannisho – Notes Lamenting Differences, Ryukoku Translation Series, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, 1962, p. 41, fn 1.
 It is thus called because those born there are like being inclosed in a lotus flower and can neither see the Buddha nor hear the Dharma. cf with Tannisho – Notes Lamenting Differences, Ryukoku Translation Series, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, 1962, p. 41, fn 1.
 Birth in the Transformed Pure Land by the followers of the 19th Vow is called „Birth under the Twin Sala Trees” (Sojuringe Ojo). Birth in the Transformed Pure Land by followers of the 20th Vow is called „Incomprehensible Birth” (Nanji Ojo). The word „incomprehensible” is used with two meanings: 1) to praise their attainment of Birth in comparison with a lower mode of Birth attained by the followers of the 19th Vow and 2) to depreciate it in comparison with a higher mode of Birth attained by the followers of the 18th Vow.
(The Kyogyoshinsho, Ryukoku Translation Center, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, 1966, p.160, fn. 8.)