Sunday, June 30, 2019

Listening the Dharma in the presence of Amida and attaining perfect Enlightenment - commentary on section 29th of the Larger Sutra

 


“The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘When Amitayus (Amida) preaches the Dharma to sravakas and Bodhisattvas, they all assemble in the seven-jeweled lecture hall. There He fully expounds the teachings of the Way and proclaims the wonderful Dharma. The whole audience rejoices, comprehends, and attains Enlightenment. At that time a breeze spontaneously arises in each of the four directions and wafts over the jeweled trees, producing sounds of the pentatonic scales and causing innumerable exquisite flowers to fall like rain and scatter everywhere. Natural ways of glorification such as these are endlessly repeated. All the devas bring with them a hundred thousand flowers, pieces of aromatic wood, and thousands of musical instruments to use as offerings to the Buddha and the assembly of bodhisattvas and sravakas; they scatter flowers, diffuse perfumes everywhere, and play various kinds of music. They come and go in succession, giving way to each other. At such times their joy and happiness are beyond description.”[1]
The key to understanding this passage is in the sentence – “the whole audience rejoices, comprehends, and attains Enlightenment”. This means that all the residents of the fulfilled land of  the Pure Land[2] (the center of the Pure Land where those with complete faith in Amida arrive after death) are fully enlightened beings or Buddhas, no matter they are called Bodhisattvas or sravakas (now with the meaning of devout disciples).

The perception of time is different here in the human plane of samsaric existence than time in the Pure Land. Thus, if here we need minutes or hours, days, months and years to do various activities, in the Pure Land many things can be done at the same time. So, in the moment of birth in the Pure Land through the Gate of Faith (Gate of the Primal Vow) we automatically see Amida in all His glory, listen to His teaching in the seven jeweled lecture hall and attain perfect Enlightenment.

As I already explained when I commented on previous sections when the term humans or devas appear in relation to the inhabitants of the Pure Land, this does not refer to the fact that once born there we remain human beings as before or that in the Pure Land, we can find other unenlightened people from various samsaric states of existence like the gods. As Shakyamuni explained in the same sutra, all beings born in the Pure Land through the Gate of Faith  “are all of one form, without any differences, but are called ‘heavenly beings (devas)’ and ‘humans’ simply by analogy with states of existence in other worlds”. In truth, those born in the Pure Land are “unequaled in all the worlds, and their appearance is superb, unmatched by any being, heavenly or human”, and are “endowed with bodies of naturalness, emptiness, and infinity” which shows that they are Enlightened Persons whose essence is ultimate Dharmakaya beyond form.  So, “the whole audience” who “rejoices, comprehends, and attains Enlightenment” also includes those who were humans or devas in a previous existence  and who “bring with them a hundred thousand flowers, pieces of aromatic wood, and thousands of musical instruments to use as offerings to the Buddha and the assembly of bodhisattvas and sravakas” and who “scatter flowers, diffuse perfumes everywhere, and play various kinds of music”.

Of course that “at such times” ­– meaning when they are born in the Pure Land, see Amida, listen to His teaching and attain perfect Enlightenment, “their joy and happiness are beyond description”.

The breeze which “at that time” arises spontaneously in “each of the four directions” and who “wafts over the jeweled trees, producing sounds of the pentatonic scales and causing innumerable exquisite flowers to fall like rain and scatter everywhere” is the celebration of the attainment of perfect Enlightenment of the newly born in the Pure Land. If you read the sacred texts you see similar descriptions of flowers falling from the sky and celestial music being played spontaneously when somebody becomes a Buddha. However, this time, unlike Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, who appeared to become a Buddha in our world, we will attain Enlightenment in the Pure Land and we’ll be celebrated there with music, flowers and various manifestations. 

“Natural ways of glorification such as these are endlessly repeated” because new beings come to be born in the Pure Land constantly from various realms of samsaric existence, and attain Enlightenment there.

When we exited our mother’s womb, parents and various relatives celebrated our first birthday  with flowers, music, and feast, thus forgetting that life contains suffering and leads inevitably to death. We also gave parties year after year to forget the ugly signs of impermanence. However,
there is no better reason for celebration other than entering the Pure Land of Enlightenment and escaping once and for all from the repeated births and deaths.

to be continued 



[1] 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.42-43
[2] See the difference between the Fulfilled Land of the Pure Land (center of the Pure Land) and borderland of the Pure  Land at this link, http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.com/2018/05/birth-in-borderland-of-pure-land.html

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